Approved FF contract to cost N.Y. city additional $32M over 4 years

Most of the additional spending is related to pay increases for Syracuse firefighters, including a small amount of retroactive pay

Chris Libonati

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A newly approved contract for Syracuse firefighters will cost the city an additional $32 million over the next four and a half years.

About $20 million of the increase will come from proposed raises. That cost includes a small amount of retroactive pay.

About $20 million of the increase will go toward proposed raises.
About $20 million of the increase will go toward proposed raises. (File photo/Dennis Nett/ News Service)

The contract, which was agreed to by the mayor’s office and the fire department’s union, was approved by the Common Council on Monday.

It includes yearly raises, training incentives and longevity incentives, all of which contribute to the contract’s cost.

“All those things were really high priority,” said the city’s Chief Operating Officer Corey Driscoll Dunham.

The city’s firefighters had been working without a contract since their last one expired at the end of 2020. Firefighters will receive a retroactive 3 percent raise for the year they worked without a contract. That will cost the city about $1 million.

The fire department’s budget will go up by nearly $2 million in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025. By the time the proposed contract finishes in 2026, the department’s budget will be on pace to crack $60 million.

Michael Greene, the chair of the Common Council’s finance committee, said he understands the “logic” of the contract, which he said is to create a professionalized force. But he also said the the fire department’s contract follows “a pretty close pattern” to the contract awarded to police officers in the middle of last year and that he’s concerned about how lucrative they are.

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“They’ve been on the frontlines during Covid and everyone wants to be supportive of them,” Greene said of the fire department.

A focus for the city while negotiating the new contract was to include incentives for firefighters who stay with the fire department beyond the 20 years it takes to get a full pension, Driscoll Dunham said.

In the next four and a half years, about one-third of the department’s 374 firefighters will be eligible to retire. City officials hope the incentives included in this contract will keep some from retiring.

Walsh’s administration took a similar approach to longevity benefits during negotiations with the police union to reduce attrition.

Both the fire department’s union and the city wanted to include incentives for firefighters to get additional training. They included provisions for a 1, 2, 3 or 4 percent raise based on the types of education and training firefighters receive.

Firefighters will also receive yearly raises of 3% from 2022 through 2025 and an additional raise of 1.5% through June 2026 if the contract passes.

The union and city officials have so far avoided going to arbitration, however they did have two meetings with a mediator during negotiations.

Driscoll Dunham said that the length of the contract will help the city plan its budget better and create more financial stability.


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