Bedford’s elected officials will earn a bit more in salary but chip in far more for health insurance, the town board decided Tuesday.
In mostly unanimous votes, the board hiked salaries by 1½ percent and pushed insurance-premium contributions from 12 to 15 percent for both officeholders and non-union full-time employees, effective Jan. 1. It also approved a longer wait to vest in their pensions, from five years to 10, for any elected official who takes office after this year.
Non-union newcomers—anyone elected or appointed who took up duties after 2009—are already contributing 20 percent of their insurance premiums. The town’s 26 unionized white-collar workers pay 12 percent of their health-insurance costs, the only employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement who contribute.
The lone holdout in the relatively low-stakes salary vote, Councilman Chris Burdick, cited a no-raise campaign promise. “When I first ran in 2007,” he recalled, “I said I would not vote to raise my own salary or accept an increase. I stand by that pledge.” In the short-handed board’s 3-1 vote, Burdick made it clear he was voting only against raising his own $16,107 annual salary.
Ever since the economy went south in 2008, pay raises of any size have been largely unseen around Bedford town hall. Aside from some scattered lump-sum compensation cash payments, town workers—from the $145,500-a-year supervisor to $40,000 union-member clerks—have seen their salaries remain virtually static throughout the downturn.
As a part-time councilman, Deputy Supervisor Peter Chryssos noted, the bump on his $16,711 salary—amounting to about $250, or less than $5 a week—will be more than offset by the climb in his health-insurance contribution.
Acknowledging the rough-math reality of those calculations, Joan Gallagher, the town’s personnel director, sympathized. “Everybody’s losing ground,” she said.
Chryssos said he would “gladly give up” his new raise in exchange for an agreement by all town employees to kick in something toward the ever-rising cost of their health insurance.
As it stands now, neither the police force’s 38 members, covered under a collective bargaining agreement that expires this year, nor the town’s 37 blue-collar workers, seeking a new contract in mediation, pay a dime toward the rising cost of their health insurance.
Chryssos, for his part, finds that unacceptable. “We’re in a new age, where everyone has to contribute,” he said. Drawing a line in Bedford’s fiscal sand, Chryssos called on his fellow board members to present a united front in the labor negotiations. “There are . . . groups in this town that need to step up,” he insisted. “And we, as a board and as a negotiating entity, need to stand firm with that.”
In other action, the board:
REJECTED a bid by the Bedford Dog Owners Group to increase from 50 to 75 the number of non-resident permits available for the Canine Commons Dog Park, a proposal reviewed, and ultimately deemed unnecessary, by the town’s Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee.
HIRED Salvatore A. DeSantis, CEO of DeSantis Consulting LLC as well as the former commissioner of Westchester’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, to oversee a new playground for Bedford Village Memorial Park.
APPROVED plans for holiday observances by the :
- Appleby Drive neighborhood, closing part of the street to traffic for a Halloween party;
- Katonah Chamber of Commerce, staging HalloweenFest, an afternoon of costume and pie making, pumpkin and face painting, 2 to 4 p.m., Oct. 28, behind 200 Katonah Ave.;
- Bedford Hills Neighborhood Association, lighting the traditional holiday spruce in Depot Plaza on Dec. 1 at 5 p.m.
Noting the financial pressures that confront any number of local traditions, at times precluding them, Councilman Peter Chryssos observed, “I want to see these [kinds of] things come back. . . . What we’re dealing with here are issues of what makes this town special.”