New York Daily News

November 20, 2002

Civil service

Cop, fire unions fight city on tax

By BILL FARRELL
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

While city and state officials prepare to do battle over reinstituting a commuter tax, a coalition of unions has stepped up its efforts to eliminate the city tax some nonresident city employees must pay.

Under Section 1127 of the City Charter, cops and firefighters who live outside New York City must pay the city income tax.

Members of those departments sign a waiver agreeing to pay the tax as a condition of employment.

Many of the unions have been looking to eliminate the tax since a group of former transit and housing officers sued over having to pay the tax after the department merger.

Those officers, as well as EMS employees merged into the Fire Department, did not have to pay the tax before the mergers.

"It's not right that only some employees have to pay this tax," said Uniformed Firefighters Association Vice President Jim Slevin. "Everyone should be treated equally."

Of course, if cops and firefighters who live in Suffolk and Rockland were no longer required to pay the tax, it would mean they would bring home more money than their brothers and sisters who actually live in the city they have sworn to protect.

Slevin said members who live in the city would have no problem with seeing the tax eliminated. "The people who live out of town pay so much more in property tax and to commute," said Slevin.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesman Al O'Leary noted that the tax disparity already exists. "Remember, the former transit and housing officers don't pay the tax."

Sergeants, detectives wait

And then there were two.

Now that the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the city have a new - albeit expired - two-year contract, that leaves only the sergeants and the detectives without a deal.

Both unions are seeking the same 24-month deal the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association was awarded through arbitration, and which was tentatively agreed to by the Uniformed Firefighters Association last week. Apparently, the city was willing to give the Detectives Endowment Association a 24-month deal, but not the same package.

According to detectives association President Tom Scotto, the city offered the same 10% raise, but less than the additional 1.5% that was part of the other deals. Another option offered by the city included the entire 1.5%, but only if the union agreed to a 30-month deal.

The detectives' response was to decline both offers, declare an impasse and going to binding arbitration with the same Public Employment Relations Board that imposed the PBA deal.

Talks with the sergeants association are ongoing.

Who gets money

Speaking of the PBA deal, while cops already have been awarded the raise and will get their retroactive pay this week, the city and union still haven't agreed on how the 1.5% will be spent.

Negotiators for the city want to see the money go into the pockets of the younger officers.

The firefighters association did this by using part of the 1.5% to increase stepup pay for younger firefighters.

PBA officials want the money spread out to benefit senior officers. "To help those officers who have already suffered with low salaries," said O'Leary.

Steps before vote

The firefighters may have reached a tentative deal with the city last week, but it will be at least another month before the rank and file will have a chance to vote on it.

Before the membership can vote, the deal has to be approved by the executive board, the battalion delegates and delegates before it goes to the membership.

"We expect to have the ballots ready to go out late next month," said Slevin.