Elmira City Council approves police pay raises of 29% over 4 years

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – In a 6 to 1 vote Monday night, the Elmira City Council voted to approve a new 4-year-contract with the Police Union representing Elmira Police Officers. The agreement includes raises totaling 29% spread over the life of the contract.

Officers will see a 10% increase in 2024, with back pay, and another 10% increase in 2025. Two more raises of 4.5% each are set for 2026 and 2027.

In a statement, Police Benevolent Association President Brooks Shaw told 18 News:

“The Elmira Police PBA is grateful for the 6 out of 7 council members that took the time to understand the concerns of our members and agreed to support this MOU. Policing has changed greatly over the past few years and there is an increased competition for qualified individuals to become police officers. More and more departments across New York State and across America are offering higher wages, benefits, and bonus packages to attract and retain qualified candidates.  This contract will assist the Elmira Police Department in remaining competitive and providing the most professional and qualified Police Force for the citizens of the City of Elmira.

Brooks Shaw

Elmira PBA President”

Mayor Mandell agreed with Mr. Shaw’s sentiment. In a statement, the Mayor said:

“The City’s agreement with the PBA is for the purpose of recruitment and retention. Elmira Police’s pay scale has dramatically fell behind other agencies in our area and around the State. There were several officers who were planning to take offers from other agencies who are paying a much higher salary than the 2023 salaries the City was paying EPD officers. The vacancies created by several officers leaving the department would create a staffing hardship for EPD. The number of people who are taking the exam for police officer has significantly decreased from years past. Also, the hiring of new officers imposes costs to the City, from background checks, psychological evaluations, physicals and finally training. It takes 9 months from the time of hiring a new recruit until the recruit is cleared to be placed on a shift and work without a training officer. This is also a matter of public safety. Making sure EPD is fully staffed is critical in maintaining and enhancing public safety. Finally, I thank Chief Thorne, his administrative  and supervisory staff for their remarkable leadership making sure all Officers are properly trained and equipped. I thank all Officers for their hard work and dedication to our City.

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Mayor Mandell and City Chamberlain Charmain Cattan negotiated the new deal. City Manager Michael Collins withdrew from the negotiations after his son was sworn-in as an Elmira Police Officer in January.

First District Councilmember Nick Grasso was the only Councilmember to vote no. In a phone call, he told 18 News he supports the Elmira Police Department, saying “we have a lot of good men and women on the force.” Mr. Grasso, however, said a 29% increase over four years is something the city budget can’t afford.

Fourth District Council Member Gary Brinn voted to approve the deal, but only after raising several financial concerns. Mr. Brinn read a statement in the Council Chamber that was also posted to his Facebook page. Here is the statement in full:

“Statement by The Rev. Gary Brinn, Elmira City Council (D-4)

11 March 2024

On May 24, 1972, Norfolk Police Officer Kit Hurst lost his life during a botched narcotics raid. Kit’s little brother was my best friend. His dad was a cop too, as were my grandfather and great-grandfather.

Fifty years later, one of my sister’s closest friends, Rochester Police Officer Tony Mazurkiewicz, was gunned down in cold blood. His killer was sentenced a couple of weeks ago.

I have understood the risks our law enforcement officers face every day my entire life. Those risks are made worse as our communities are over-run by assault weapons and ghost guns, and by narcotics that begin in Communist China, pass through the failed narco-state of Mexico, and end up in our streets, where they kill addicts like my nephew Josh.

We refuse to provide treatment for the mentally ill and chronically addicted, choosing to pay much more in the long-run as they cycle from prison to the streets. This is a reality all of our first-responders face.

Anyone who says I do not support cops and do not understand the challenges of law enforcement is lying to you. I do support law enforcement. But I do not support this contract with Elmira’s police union, despite being the son of a union-member firefighter myself.

We may be in a hot economy, but no one is seeing these types of raises. Elmira’s elderly, dependent on social security, are not getting a cost of living adjustment that looks anything like this. Our teachers are not getting raises like this.

To find this sort of pay increase, you’d have to turn to the CEOs who are destroying America’s middle class and impoverishing our working class. Unless you are one of those CEOs, you probably should be paid more. That isn’t a question. The question is whether we can afford to pay our police more on the backs of our taxpayers. And that answer is no.

This contract exceeds our budgeted contingency, and combined with an un-budgeted overrun in healthcare costs, breaks the city’s budget only two months into the fiscal year. The City Manager and Mayor have had the back of our police officers while stabilizing the city’s finances. Their good faith is not reciprocated here.

The current economic model for policing in small cities is simply not sustainable. Taxpayers cannot continue to be held hostage to this broken system. I’d like to think the union understood this, but since so few of our police officers live in Elmira, I have my doubts.

In the long-term, this strategy is self-defeating, as a city being bankrupted by soaring police salaries cannot take on the quality of life and community care issues that help reduce crime. This contract locks us into a fiscal death spiral that ends up with Elmira as a war zone patrolled by an occupation force.

I appreciate the hard work the mayor and the chamberlain put into negotiating this agreement. And I trust them when they say New York’s binding arbitration system ties our hands, so I will vote to approve the contract today. But going forward, I will not vote for new hires who do not reside in the City of Elmira or have not committed to move into the city. I am formally requesting that the City Manager no longer group all personnel transactions in a single resolution, forcing the council to accept or reject multiple individuals across multiple departments.

I expect the chief and the city manager to come back to this council with significant cost containment measures. If I spend more than I make, there are consequences. The same is true for the city.

If you are not outraged by these numbers, you are not paying attention. I encourage the citizens of Elmira to demand reform, in policing, in how contracts for public servants are negotiated, and most of all in our misplaced political priorities that fund incarceration after there are victims instead of treatment and rehabilitation before there are victims.

Call your representatives in the County Legislature, in Albany, and in Washington, and if they refuse to listen, throw the bums out.

Thank you.”

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Fifth District Councilmember Jackie Wilson told 18 News: “I was glad to vote for the agreement reached between the City of Elmira and the PBA. It’s important in order to attract and retain quality candidates for police that our pay scales are in line with surrounding communities. The new contract will also help us retain veteran police officers, perhaps assuring there won’t be as many early retirements.”

In an email, Sixth District Councilmember Nanette Moss told 18 News: “We’re lucky that people are stepping up to protect us. We back the Blue”.

The new contract also includes new steps in “salary schedules” which “include a 10% increase for 2024 pursuant to the terms of this MOA (Memorandum of Agreement). It breaks down the new steps as follows:

For Patrol: insert a new 22-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $94,600 and
insert a new 25-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $97,900;

For Sergeant: insert a new 22-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $104,500 and
insert a new 25-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $107,800;

For Lieutenant: insert a new 22-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $112,200
and insert a new 25-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $115,500; and

For Captain: insert a new 22-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $121,000 and
insert a new 25-Year Step at a current 2024 Salary of $124,300.

The expired 2020-2023 contract included salary schedule steps up to Year 20.

The agreement says all other provisions, like health insurance, paid time off and retirement, will stay the same as in the previous agreement, remaining “in full force and effect.”

You can view the 2024-2027 Memorandum of Agreement, and the expired 2020-2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement below:



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