Police patrols in Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority complexes won't be eliminated, at least until next year, under a new plan officials presented to the Common Council Wednesday.
However, if three unions don't agree to be covered by just one health insurer to save money, there could be 30 layoffs in other departments before the end of the year, housing authority officials said.
Earlier this month, authority officials said they would eliminate patrols by December and instead assign officers to specific housing developments. Authority officials pointed to savings in vehicle maintenance, overtime and gas, though they didn't have a dollar estimate.
However, Council members balked and the plan was put on hold for a month.
On Wednesday, Executive Director Sharon M. West presented the Council's Community Development Committee with a merger plan that won't affect services, but will combine the Public Safety Department with the Occupancy and Management Department. Under the measure, which was adopted by the authority's board of commissioners last week, the Public Safety Department would continue existing responsibilities, including patrols of all housing developments.
The delay gives West a chance to prepare and present to the Council -- which has no direct authority over the agency or its budget -- a detailed policing plan outlining how the department would function with the elimination of the patrols, and the impact on city police operations. The patrols could still be eliminated in January, West said.
Nine public safety officers already have been eliminated as a result of an 18-month-old agreement with the department to downsize by 12. Three more will be cut by Dec. 31, officials said.
Also at issue is health insurance coverage. Currently, the three unions representing 329 authority employees have separate insurance carriers. West said by consolidating to one insurance plan, the authority could save about $400,000. The unions are scheduled to vote on the proposal next week.
"If they do not agree to go to one health insurance carrier, there's the potential of 30 people being laid off. We're talking immediately," she said.
The 30 positions would most likely come from the blue- and white-collar union. The other two unions represent the operating engineers and the public safety officers.
The situation is similar to that of city firefighters, who rejected a plan earlier this year by Mayor Anthony M. Masiello for one health insurer. Despite the union vote, the mayor implemented the plan, which he said would save the city $6 million and avoid layoffs. The union filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board; the case is pending.