Editor, The Spotlight;
The Spotlight (April 8) and Times Union (April 9) articles noting record overtime totals for the state of $661 million and Bethlehem police department of $227,528 are striking in their similarity. As a taxpayer, these figures concern me. The numbers are startling.
As an employee, long ago on an hourly payroll, and later, for many years as an employer, I have had to deal with issues of overtime and time off from both ends.
It is difficult to criticize Mr. Clarkson and the Town Board for trying to make government more efficient while maintaining and improving services with the same tax dollars. It is also difficult to criticize our very competent, dedicated and sometimes heroic police officers.
I openly admit that I don’t know the details of the previously negotiated package currently in effect regarding total leave for the officers. When the number of 21.2 days sick leave being used annually per employee is quoted, I don’t know if this is in addition to unspecified vacation time, “personal” leave, funeral leave, wedding leave, maternity leave, etc. If it is in addition to these other categories, then it would appear that the sick day policy was being abused. As a partner/owner of a small professional business in town for 38+ years, with a staff of 12 to 14 employees, no individual would have been kept in employment if they averaged 21 days of sick leave per year. Employees with very serious medical conditions requiring extensive time off were given unpaid leave after a reasonable time, and substitutes hired until the employee was able to return to a normal schedule and normal limits of time off. As the employer and owner, I didn’t take 21 days of sick leave in any given decade, and many employees also did not. It is, then, difficult for me to easily sympathize with the officers. But maybe I was just lucky.
It is also impossible to draw conclusions from the news bites and published tidbits. I am not at all sure what the union spokesperson is referring to when he says that, “We feel we have done our part,” and I have to wonder if it is a case of “being victimized” or simply “being normalized.” Could these leave restrictions that the officers find so detrimental to their “quality of life” be made more acceptable by adding a single additional patrolman? My best guess is that some flexibility is needed at both ends, but it is likely that the previous guidelines for time off were unrealistically liberal, possibly making more flexibility by the union unavoidable.