WNY police cuts threatened

wnyWest New York officials are threatening to lay off a fifth of their uniformed officers if the municipal labor unions can’t collectively come up with enough budget cuts to avoid a tax increase.

More than 70 employees would lose their jobs, including 22 police officers, according to notices officials sent to all town employees late last week.

Whether it’s a tactical ploy remains to be seen.

Residents have packed Town Hall meetings to complain about the municipality’s steep tax hikes in recent years, and there have been rumblings of a possible recall of Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega and his commissioners.

Facing an angry electorate on one side and municipal employees on the other puts Vega and his associates in a tight spot they may not be able to wiggle out of without causing serious damage somewhere.

City negotiators are in talks with three unions representing 112 officers and nearly 340 other town workers.

If they can find $5 million in savings, city officials say, the number of layoffs would dramatically decrease. But that money has to come from somewhere — and that’s usually when the talk turns to givebacks.

In this case, one of the key issues reportedly is the cost of health coverage.

The clock is ticking, though: The notice said terminations would come in about six weeks.

Police Director Oscar Fernandez has promised to redeploy officers to keep the public safe if he loses staff. How that would affect the town — which is fast approaching 50,000 Census-counted residents over a square mile of land — remains to be seen.

State Civil Service officials have signed off on the layoff plan, which would give those terminated priority in rehiring.

Stay tuned.

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