LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The salaries of more than 1,600 county workers on Long Island are in question. Taxpayers say with some high-earling police officers making six-figures, what gives?
Nassau and Suffolk County executives are on the hot seat as their workers’ salaries soar. Last year, 966 employees in Suffolk County and 646 in Nassau County made well over $200,000.
The median household income in Suffolk County is $90,000, and in Nassau it’s $102,000.
CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan asked Nassau Executive Laura Curran about negotiations with five major unions.
“All five municipal contracts have expired and we have to make sure that we negotiate fair contracts to the hard working men and women of Nassau County who work for the county and fair to the taxpayers as well,” Curran said.
More than 90 percent of the workers earning over $200,000 were police officers, detectives, and supervisors.
Are costy deals with the PBA to blame?
“The Suffolk County police union is allowed to send people on the clock to go campaign for the same elected officials who are ratifying the contract deals,” Ken Girardin from Empire Center for Public Policy said. He called the situation a “terrible conflict of interest.”
Suffolk County says endorsements have nothing to do with public safety. The men and women who put their lives on the line every day must be fairly compensated, officials say.
Change is on the way for most hires, though.
“Trying to bring those new employees on that are less expensive, especially what we did in the last contract, starting to see some of the benefits of that,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
Both counties face huge budget deficits. Reclaim New York says sustaining dueling union salaries and giving similar raises to every union just isn’t feasible.
“It’s like raising kids,” Michael Watt said. “You can’t love one too much because the others get bent out of shape.”
Watchdog groups are imploring lawmakers to fix the state’s binding arbitration system they claim is rigged to benefit unions by not capping annual salary rewards.
Officials tell CBS2 that overtime is the main reason for the high salaries. Dozens of other county workers were paid nearly $6,000 each for unused sick and vacation time.