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March 09, 2009

"11,000 reasons to vote no on union contract"

Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus, pointing to his county's 7.3 percent unemployment rate, urged the county Legislature not to override his veto of a generous contract with unionized employees of Dutchess Community College.

"Nearly 11,000 residents are out of work in our community and the Dutchess County Legislature thinks that now is a good time to give salary increases of up to 17% over a 3 year period at Dutchess Community College? I simply do not understand their logic or lack thereof," says Steinhaus, a Republican, in a press release.

On Tuesday, the county Legislature will decide whether to reject Steinhaus' veto of the contract negotiated by the community college and Dutchess United Educators, which represents 114 full-time faculty members and 49 full-time administrators.

The Legislature's majority leader told the Poughkeepsie Journal that she expected Democrats to override the veto. The Republican leader said his colleagues are studying the contract.

Hoping to persuade legislators to vote no, Steinhaus describes terms of the contract:

  • Annual salary increases as high as 5.4%, with the average annual increase being 3.9%
  • FREE individual health coverage for active employees.
  • Early retirement incentive packages
  • Employees with as little as 15 years of service can receive bonus payment equal to 95% of salary
  • FREE health insurance individual or family coverage until age 65.
  • Sick leave payout bonuses of up to 45 days.
The Poughkeepsie Journal notes that only educators hired before August 31, 1997 get free health insurance; others must contribute.

Steinhaus also objects to "lack of a transparent legislative process with a public discussion of the full impact the contract would have on county finances," including whether it would require a tuition or property tax increase.

"Dutchess Community College is one of our County's most valuable assets and I respect and value the teachers and administrators who help to make it such an excellent institution,"said Steinhaus. "However, this contract does not reflect the tough economic times. I think it is fair and reasonable to ask both the union and the college administrators to go back to the negotiation table to work out an agreement that taxpayers can afford."
Steinhaus February 23 memo to the Legislature objecting to the contract and detailing the costs of early retirement incentives can be found here.

Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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