Councilors concerned about proposed cost of new Syracuse Police contract

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The proposed cost of a new Syracuse Police contract has become a sticking point for members of the Common Council.

At a finance committee meeting Tuesday, Councilors Timothy Rudd and Khalid Bey questioned whether the city could afford the current deal.

The Mayor’s Office has said the tentative contract would cost $13.5 million dollars over 4.5 years. Rudd disputes that estimate and believes the contract is more likely around $19.5 million dollars.

Rudd said the Mayor’s Office proposal didn’t include overtime rates, payroll taxes, and pension contributions. Several councilors thanked Rudd for identifying the vacancies.

“If nothing else I think this meeting shows the importance of slowing down. There was much discussed today that was worthwhile,” said Rudd.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours and included representatives from the Mayor’s Office who negotiated the contract, Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner, Deputy Chief Joe Cecile, Common Council members, and Syracuse Police Union President Jeff Piedmonte. While everyone agreed investment in SPD is invaluable, the cost, as well as retroactive incentive payments, were concerns of several councilors.

The contract, which would run retroactively from 2018 to 2021, includes lump payments to officers for past achievements in education, language proficiency, and several other areas. Typically, incentives are used to encourage better future behavior, not previous actions.

“We certainly support the idea of becoming a 21st century police department. I think I speak for everybody when I say we support that idea, the math just has to make sense,” said Councilor-At-Large, Khalid Bey.

Rudd also discussed concerns about how the proposed contract would pull unused funds left by vacancies in other city departments.

“We’re basically taking the budget discussion for the next 2.5 years and having it today by saying all that extra money from every other department that everyone has worked hard to cultivate is going to go into this PD agreement,” said Rudd.

Chief Administrative Officer Frank Caliva insisted at Tuesday’s meeting the deal would not raid funds currently being used in department budgets and city taxes would not be increased.

Addressing the Councilors directly, Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens urged them to look at the total picture and not just the cost, calling the package, “an investment in the future of the city.”

“We don’t take your decision lightly, it is not an easy decision but I really believe we are at a crossroads right now of whether or not you are going to consider or not the investment we are proposing before you,” said Owens.

Councilor Rudd said he plans to speak with the city clerk and consult his fellow councilors to schedule a special session. He hopes a vote on the proposed contract will still happen before the end of the year.

For more local news, follow Rob Hackford on Twitter @Robert_Hackford

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