Will Speed Cameras Fund First Nassau Worker Raises in 3 Years?

speed camera

Smile, school-zone speeders: You may soon be on camera—and $50 fines paid by those caught on video speeding could help fund the first raise Nassau County workers receive in three years.

The Nassau legislature voted Monday to approve contract agreements with four of the six unions representing county employees, the first step in ending a wage freeze since a financial control board declared a fiscal crisis in 2010. A proposal to set up speed cameras to generate revenue that will help pay for those raises was voted down, but is expected to be taken up again within the next week.

“To prevent this freeze from continuing for a fourth year…the revenue resulting from these cameras will help offset the short-term costs associated with these labor agreements,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalvez (R-East Meadow) said before the vote set off cheers in the packed chamber at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola.

The agreements still need the approval of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state fiscal watchdog currently overseeing the county’s finances, but the board’s leadership has signaled that it will likely pass the measures. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano had asked the legislature to hold a special meeting on the agreements so that the county can hire a new class of police academy cadets and refill the department’s dwindling ranks. The 37-month wage freeze has been estimated to save the county more than $200 million.

“That’s an investment in the workforce that hasn’t been made in a long time,” said James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association that represents rank-and-file officers and had sued to undo the wage freeze.

The legislature voted unanimously for the memorandum of agreement with the county’s largest union, the Civil Service Employee Association Nassau Local 830, which covers general employees.

Two Democrats joined the 11-8 Republican majority to provide the 13-vote supermajority needed to pass the agreements for the PBA, Nassau Detectives Association, Inc. and Superior Officers Association that includes police supervisors. The other six Democrats abstained.

The head of the Corrections Officer Association that reps officers at Nassau jail told the legislature that his collective bargaining unit is days away from finalizing their deal with the county. The county’s sixth union, repping the Nassau district attorneys investigators, is also still working out a deal.

“I don’t think anyone would disagree that we need to be able to move forward as a county,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, cautioning that the estimated $25 to $57 million in speed-camera revenue over the next four years won’t cover the $129 to $170 million in added expenditures for the same time period. “We have to make sure at the end of the day that expenditures meet the revenue.”

Tim Sullivan, deputy county executive for finance, said that an expected increase in sales tax revenue, mortgage recording fees and county employee attrition will also balance out the raises.

Although the speed cameras still require approval from the New York State Legislature, members of the county legislature remained optimistic that would happen—should the county pass what is known as a home-rule message requesting state action. Suffolk lawmakers recently did the same to help pay for a new police contract.

If approved, the speed cameras, like the red light cameras, would be a four-year pilot program and would require reauthorization from the state after that. Mangano administration officials said some cameras are projected to earn as much as $60,000 daily. But, some were still skeptical, noting that red light camera revenue has dropped as drivers learned to stop blowing certain lights.

“It’s a fluid thing to depend on,” said Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury).

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