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Hudson Petitions State Supreme Court

The City of Hudson has filed a petition in the New York State Supreme Court seeking to stop the police union from demanding that the City provide millions of dollars in enhanced retirement benefits.

Current State law provides that police retirement benefits are based on the Final Average Salary (FAS) earned by a police officer during his or her last three years of service. The union seeks to use a FAS for only the last year of employment, arguably the highest-paid year of service. In the case at hand the difference between the 3-year and 1-year FAS is significant and could cause the City to go into significant debt in an already depressed economy. The City’s position is that only the 3-year FAS is allowed.

“I support unions and I'm glad that our police officers have pension benefits so they can work and retire with economic security, but State law prohibits the enhanced retirement benefits this union is seeking since it was never authorized by the City Council,” said Mayor Kamal Johnson. “Their attempt to base retirement on the final year instead of the final three years is not appropriate. It is an unauthorized benefit that will significantly harm the city and its residents. What’s at stake is millions of dollars and possibly the future of the police force in Hudson. The City had no choice but to file for a stay of the union’s request for arbitration,”

Hudson City Treasurer Heather Campbell said, “If the Union is successful in this arbitration, the City will be forced to pay over $900,000 into the State’s retirement system just to cover the past service cost of providing this enhanced retirement benefit. Thereafter, taxpayers will need to come up with an additional $75,000 or more annually, in perpetuity, to cover other officers who may also ask for the enhanced retirement.”

Albany attorney Jonathan Bernstein who is representing the City said, “Retirement benefits for public employees are established by state law which explicitly prohibits unions and local municipalities from bargaining for retirement benefits in a collective bargaining agreement. We believe the enhanced retirement provision relied upon by the union in this case is a holdover clause in the City’s current collective bargaining agreement that has no effect as a matter of law.”

“The Common Council is prepared to litigate this matter to the State’s highest court if necessary and will also be prepared to take drastic cost-saving measures to pay the enhanced benefit if the union prevails. We will have no choice,” said Common Council President Tom DePietro.

A decision in the matter is expected sometime in the fall.