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Massena, CSEA employees reach four-year contract

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MASSENA - The village and its 36 CSEA employees have a new four-year contract, which includes health insurance contributions and annual salary increases.

The village’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the contract with CSEA Unit 8407, which covers 32 Department of Public Works staff and four police department dispatchers, effective June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2016. The employees will receive a 1 percent salary increase in 2012-2013, as well as a separate $1,000 stipend not factored into their base pay.

The salary increases rise to 2 percent annually in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, and 2.5 percent in 2015-2016. Employees will only receive the separate stipend in the contract’s first year, according to Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld.

Staff will begin contributing $10 per week, or $520 annually, toward their health, vision and dental costs starting in 2013-2014. That contribution will rise to $13 per week, or $676 annually, in 2015-2016. Future retirees will continue contributing to their insurance at the level they paid when they left until they reach Medicare age. But those who are at least 55 when they retire or have worked at least 30 years for the village by their retirement won’t have to contribute, Mr. Ahlfeld said.

The village currently pays $734.38 per month, or $8,812.56 annually, for health insurance, vision and dental for each single employee, according to Treasurer Daniel E. Case. It pays $1,475.21 a month, or $17,702.52 annually, for each employee on a family plan, including couples without children.

Mr. Ahlfeld said the previous four-year contract included no employee health insurance contributions and 3.5 annual salary increases. Officials did not have the total cost of the new contract available.

Mr. Ahlfeld and Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said the contract negotiations included at least 12 meetings between the village and the CSEA.

“There’s give and take in every contract,” Mr. Ahlfeld said. “It was always professional and cordial. I’m grateful that everyone who sat around the table was willing to listen and willing to share.”

“It’s not perfect for either one of us,” Ms. Wilson said. “It’s a great compromise for both of us.”

Mayor James F. Hidy thanked Unit 8407 president Mark Patterson for his cooperation. He said discussions never broke down, but alluded to occasional “excitement” in the negotiating room.

Mr. Patterson agreed that the contract was a good compromise.

“We learned things from each other, what people were looking for,” he said.

Mr. Patterson criticized the village for hiring David Birnbaum of Cranberry Lake in March at a rate of $90 per hour to serve as a professional contract negotiator. Officials previously said Mr. Birnbaum’s expertise was necessary, as the village no longer had an administrator and needed additional assistance at he negotiating table.

But Mr. Patterson said the village and CSEA could have worked out a compromise without hiring him.

“I would be dishonest to you if I said I thought it was worth the village doing that,” he said. “That being said, he was a terrific person to have in the room.”

Of the 32 DPW employees, 17 are funded entirely through water, sewer and garbage fees, Mr. Patterson said. The remainder are funded through a combination of property taxes and user fees.

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