ALBION, N.Y. — A miscalculation in police salary has cost the Village of Albion $236,000 over the past five years according to auditors hired to review employee salaries.
The initial findings of the audit which were presented to the Village Board last week fueled questions from Albion neighbors at their regular meeting Wednesday night.
“If this was a problem and it was found out, something should have been done at that point,” said Lori Laine, an Albion business owner.
The overpayment, which continues to occur every pay period, has been blamed on a clerical error that started in 2017 when Albion Police changed to 12-hour shifts, in an attempt to cut back on overtime. Officers are paid bi-weekly for 84 hours of work instead of the typical 80 hours and that's where the issue occurred when calculating hourly pay.
Mayor Angel Javier Jr. told 2 On Your Side the so-called overpayments while accounted for in the village budget, equate to around 10% of the tax levy, that could have been spent elsewhere.
A few neighbors were also surprised to learn the 2017 error was carried over when the police union signed a new contract in 2021, meaning it was not caught by the board at the time or the negotiating group.
“You see, that nominal change affects things, and then that gets compounded with overtime and everything else that come in to pay. I don’t think anybody was hoping that was what it was going to turn out to be,” Mayor Javier said during Wednesday’s meeting.
While the Mayor attempted to fix the error last month, the change only lasted one pay period and the police union has since filed a grievance with the village.
In a 3-2 vote, the Village Board voted to reverse the mayor’s decision and continue paying police what they had been, rather than disrupt the lives of the 15 officers receiving the inflated pay.
Tim McMurray who voted in favor of keeping the pay for the police officers told 2 On Your Side Wednesday night that he wanted to wait until the full audit was completed before acting.
“We were still waiting for findings to come out, official findings on our end, waiting to have an official, formal hearing with the police union before any action was to be taken so that they would be able to speak on their behalf as well,” said McMurray.
The Bonadio Group which conducted the audit is expected to release an initial final draft as soon as next week Mayor Javier said, which is also when a meeting with the police union will take place.
As one village official put it during Wednesday’s meeting, “we just don’t have the answers.” While three of the Village Board members are new to their jobs and the other two have served for two years and one year respectively, this carry-over issue is their responsibility to tackle.
It remains unclear what will happen to the excess money that was paid to the 15 Albion Police Officers, but Mayor Javier said that village counsel has contacted the New York State Comptroller’s Office to explore whether recouping it is possible. One neighbor equated that possibility to “stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.”
“I do not feel you’re going to be able to get the money back nor do I feel that they should pay the money back but I feel if you find an issue you should address the issue right then,” Laine said.
As of Wednesday evening, however, nothing was done to correct the error.