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Legislature Approves Police Retirement Incentive Program

Lawmakers seek $21 million in savings

Last Monday’s session of the Nassau County Legislature lasted from early afternoon into the evening. But it also lasted long enough for that body to approve a retirement incentive program for county police, one that lawmakers hope will result in $21 million in savings from the county budget.

Passage came after hours of negotiations between the county executive’s office and the three police unions—-Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the Nassau County Detectives Association (DAI), and the Superior Officers Association (SOA)—-in order for the majority to receive the necessary votes from Democratic lawmakers.

Officially entitled, The Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), the plan is the initiative of County Executive Edward I. Mangano. It is designed to encourage the “most highly compensated employees” to retire, in the process, reducing the payroll without forcing layoffs or furloughs.

The office of Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R. - Massapequa) said the incentive program was approved along with $26 million bonding to cover the retirement costs.

“This incentive will help get up to 103 high-salaried officers off the payroll, and we are pleased to follow through on further savings for Nassau taxpayers,” said Schmitt.

However, the Democratic minority also claimed victory, noting that they had gained staffing level guarantees from the bill.

“After the disastrous move by the county executive and the Republican majority to close half of the police precincts in Nassau, the Democratic caucus was successful in pushing Ed Mangano’s back against the wall so that he gave us a signed guarantee that there would not be one less patrol car in any neighborhood in Nassau County, that there would be more law enforcement personnel in all of the policing centers, and that the excessive amount of $50 million he originally asked us to approve him borrowing was decreased to less than $27 million,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D.- Freeport).

The legislation states that those eligible for the plan are full-time Nassau County employees represented by the PBA, the DAI, and the SOA.

More specifically, the legislation is aimed at Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees since, as it notes, the county contributes between 14 and 15.3 percent of the pension costs to such employees, a number that county officials claim increases annually. Participating employees, the legislation further said, will upon retirement, receive a lump sum payment equal to $1,000 per year for each year of service.

Finally, proponents of the VSIP claim that it is more cost effective, to the tune of $8 million per year, than layoffs. “[The] VSIP allows for the orderly transition of personnel over a course of months,” the legislation further states. “The Police Department will be able to allocate resources appropriately and with staff better matched to their position.”

The vote came on the heels of the controversial plan to close four police precincts in the county and turn them into community policing centers. At a Feb. 27 hearing, the Democratic minority attempted to delay a vote on the precinct closings by blocking a vote on the retirement incentive program.

In a letter released prior to the Feb. 27 meeting, Minority Leader Abrahams noted that the county executive’s office has estimated that the retirement incentive program would save the county $20 million annually. Such a program, the letter continued, would “achieve all of the savings anticipated by [the] precinct closure plan and make the shuttering of any police precincts in Nassau unnecessary.” The letter also called for a “full financial analysis” of the proposed retirement incentive program to see if such savings could in fact be obtained from it.