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Judge Rules Police Officers Are Exempt from Wage Freeze

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A state Supreme Court justice has ruled in favor of Buffalo police officers in their battle with the control board over a controversial wage freeze.

Justice Nelson Cosgrove says officers are exempt from the wage freeze. It was imposed by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority in April to help close the city's massive budget gap. Control Board Chair Thomas Baker said the ruling gives officers preferred status over other city employees and throws the city's already fragile budget out of balance.

"We end up with a situation in which the budget in this fiscal year is balanced by the control board borrowing on behalf of the city $20 million and that's basically to meet payroll," Baker said. "That's also with the wage freeze in place."

Baker says he views the ruling as contrary to the state legislation creating the control board. He says it will be immediately appealed. Baker says the wage freeze is clearly preferable to laying off city workers.

"We just can't continue to spend more than we take in," Baker said. "The city is in a difficult situation with basic services that need to be provided. We thought the wage freeze was a better approach than the other alternative which is to send people home without a paycheck and without fringe benefits."

Under their contract with the city, police officers were scheduled to receive a 3.4 percent salary increase on July 1st. Officials of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association were not available for comment on the judge's ruling.