City employees who are also reservists called for duty caught a break last week from the state Legislature, which voted that the city should pay its citizen soldiers the difference between their military salary and their civilian salary.
The Public Servant Soldier Salary Act, which passed both branches of the state Legislature and was sponsored by state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), brings the city in line with the state and many other municipalities on this issue, Lancman said.
Currently, the state and many other municipalities, as well as many private sector companies, pay their employee citizen soldiers the difference between their civilian and military pay during their deployment.
The city, however, has a repayment method of civilian-military differential pay, whereby city employees are given the option of either receiving both their military and their entire city salary — with health benefits — during deployment and repaying the lesser of the two salaries, including taxes, when they return to their civilian jobs, or giving up their city salary and losing their city health benefits during their deployment, Lancman said.
"It really puts people in a terrible situation, not only in terms of finances but also in terms of health benefits," he said.
The new legislation does away with the repayment system and switches city employees to a differential payment system whereby mobilized employees will receive the difference between their civilian and military salaries during the period of their deployment, meaning they will not have to repay any amount to the city at the conclusion of their mobilization.
"City employees serving in Iraq or Afghanistan are defending our city and our country, and they deserve better on returning home than a collection notice from the city," Lancman said. "This legislation guarantees them and their families' financial security during and after their military service."
For city employees already deployed under the current repayment system, the new legislation offers several ways to relieve the stress of repaying the city.
First, it reduces the amount owed by between 22 percent and 27 percent to approximate the amount of federal, state and city taxes already paid. Second, it doubles the repayment period to 10 years, and allows retirees the same time to repay. Third, it wipes out the debts of city employees killed in the course of military service.
Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodo
©2008 Community News Group
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