Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus pointed to the latest economic news as one more reason why the Dutchess County Legislature should vote no on the proposed Dutchess Community College union contract. The Associated Press reported this morning the United States national unemployment rate surged to 8.1 percent in February, the highest rate since late 1983. The AP report stated unemployment was “worse than analysts expected and the Labor Department’s report shows America’s workers being clobbered by a relentless wave of layoffs.” Dutchess County has not been immune to the effects of the tough economy. Yesterday the New York State Department of Labor reported the Dutchess County’s unemployment rate was 7.3% with 10,800 unemployed residents.
As national and local news continue to report on declining economic conditions, the Dutchess County Legislature’s Democrat leadership do not seem to be concerned as they move forward with plans to approve a generous proposed labor contract between Dutchess Community College (DCC) and Dutchess United Educators.
County Executive Steinhaus recently vetoed the proposed DCC contract due to his concerns about the generous terms of the contract during tough economic times. The County Executive also objected to the lack of a transparent legislative process with a public discussion about the full fiscal impact the contract would have on County finances. The Legislature’s Democrat leadership plan to try to override the County Executive’s veto at the March 10th Board Meeting.
“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?” questioned Dutchess County Executive Steinhaus. “I simply do not understand their logic or lack thereof.”
The Dutchess Community College contract is a 3 year contract that features:
- 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
o Employees with as little as 15 years of service can receive bonus payment equal to 95% of salary.
o FREE health insurance individual or family coverage until age 65.
- Sick leave payout bonuses of up to 45 days.
A full presentation of the contract has not made publicly and there are still uncertainities about the contract and its multi-year cost. The money to fund new contract provisions will have to come from either increased tuition raised or increased county contributions. However, no information has been provided about which method will be used. Unlike all county government contracts, there was no fiscal impact provided to outline what the final cost will be.
“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.”