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Friday, April 19, 2024

Concerns Arise Over Schenectady County Pay Raise Proposal

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Schenectady County Legislature Proposes Salary Increases Tied to Public Employees

SCHENECTADY — A proposal that would link salary increases for members of the Schenectady County Legislature to those of public employees is raising concerns with some government observers, who worry the idea could prevent lawmakers from representing the interest of residents when approving future contracts.

Lawmakers introduced legislation last week that would extend salary increases to the county’s sheriff and clerk as a way to address pay disparities for positions that are both currently lagging behind neighboring communities.

However, the legislation also includes a provision that would extend raises to the 15-member legislature based on negotiated pay increases established in the Civil Service Employees Association contract for public employees beginning in 2025. That would mean a 2.25% pay bump for elected officials in 2025, when the law would take effect. Members of the Legislature currently earn $19,000, while leadership positions and the legislative chair earn $20,406 and $21,406, respectively.

Creating Greater Transparency

The proposal is intended to bring salaries for lawmakers in line with other county legislatures in the region while creating greater transparency around lawmakers’ pay and avoiding the need for large lump-sum pay bumps every few years. Lawmakers last saw a pay increase in 2019 — when their wages grew 35% following years without adjustment.

Members of the Albany County Legislature currently earn $20,049 while the chair of the body brings home $42,711. In Rennsessarly County, members of the legislature earn $20,000. Majority and minority leadership positions earn $25,000 and the legislature chair earns $30,000.

Ethical Concerns

Some in the Legislature criticized that the proposal was brought forward just weeks after November’s elections, when a number of sitting lawmakers faced challenges.

Now, some political observers are raising concerns about the ethics of the proposal, which they believe creates an incentive for lawmakers to approve more substantial pay increases moving forward. Members of the Legislature are not involved in the negotiating process, but must approve all collecting bargaining agreements.

Glenville resident Kurt Semon, a former Town Board candidate, believes the proposal is flawed and should be scrutinized by the state’s comptroller. He questioned why no one on the 15-member Legislature has thought to question the ethics behind the proposal, including the body approving CBAs which would give themselves raises.

Expert Opinions

Mark Johnson, spokesperson for the state’s comptroller, said the office does not have any guidance around pay raises for public employees and declined to comment on the proposed legislation.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment about a current piece of draft legislation pending in a local legislature,” Johnson said.

Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner defended the proposed law, saying that concerns are not warranted and are “political baloney.”

Gardner is the county’s chief negotiating officer, and said his 40 years of negotiating experience — including two decades with Schenectady County — would not be hampered if the proposal is ultimately adopted.

Good-Government Group’s Perspective

John Kaehny, executive director of the good-government group Reinvent Albany, said plans to index salaries for elective officials is “a good idea” that could help avoid political arguments to increase salaries every few years.

But, he said linking the raises to salaries for public employees is something that should be avoided.

“They should definitely not have their salaries in any way coupled to that of public employees because the Legislature is elected to represent the taxpaying public— the general public, not just public employees,” Kaehny said. “It creates an incentive, whether it’s subconscious or a bias or a factor in their decisions-making that would favor increases in public employee pay.”

Kaehny suggested indexing the salaries for lawmakers to something like the consumer price index, or the rate of inflation as tracked by the federal government.

Conclusion

Anthony Jasenski, chairman of the Schenectady County Legislature, did not return a request seeking comment. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposed law on Dec. 18.

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Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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1 COMMENT

  1. I disagree with the proposed pay raise. It is unfair to allocate more funds to county officials while many residents struggle financially. #NoPayRaise

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