Members of the Town Board stalemated on their own raises Wednesday, effectively ending a move to include in the budget a pay increase of $5,000 for the four positions.
With Michael Della Villa absent from the meeting, John Silva and Supervisor Steve Tommasone voted against raising the salaries, which would have been 50 percent more than the $10,000 now paid to board members. In voting against the measure, Silva said he didn’t disapprove of the increase, rather that it was done outside the regular budget process.
Silva also urged the board to consider reviewing the role of the town’s part-time elected officials and their duties relative to similar sized municipalities. With Rotterdam approaching a population of 30,000, he suggested it may be time to start a discussion about seeking a full-time administrator.
“At this time my vote will be no because I think there’s a better way to do this,” he said of the raises.
Tommasone also read a statement from Della Villa opposing the raises. Della Villa, away on business, indicated he did not support the move because of the way the issue arose and citizen concerns over town spending.
“While I understand Rotterdam [Town Board] members are among the lowest paid in the state, I cannot support a 50 percent increase at this time,” he said in his statement.
In November, town officials voted 3-2 to amend the 2008 budget to give each board position a $5,000 per year raise. The pay raises did not affect the supervisor position, which pays $16,000 a year.
Town Attorney Gerard Parisi later advised the board it would need to adopt a local law before legally approving raises for themselves. Because the initial budget didn’t include the raises, he said the only way to grant them later was to pass a local law subject to a permissive referendum.
In speaking against the raises, resident Kevin March suggested the board take up the issue of raises during the regular budget process. By doing so, he said, residents wouldn’t get an impression of underhandedness. “Where as this is something that was slid in after the fact,” he said.
But proponents of the measure — councilmen John Mertz and Joseph Signore — disagreed with this characterization. Both said the board followed the same process it had for raising the salaries of other elected officials in the past.
Signore said the issue of raises was brought up at a time when the town had a tax decrease and a $3 million surplus. He said the proposed raises would have helped attract a better pool of candidates to the office.
“It’s good for both Democrats and Republicans alike, as they seek town board candidates for the future,” he said.
In other business, board members congratulated the Rotterdam Pop Warner Junior Midget Cheerleaders for placing seventh in National Cheer and Dance Competition in Florida last month and presented each of them with a citation. The 24-member group under head coach Joanne Floccuzio also placed first among Capital Region cheerleaders and third in Eastern Region Cheer and Dance Championship Competition in Trenton, N.J.
“Good job and hopefully you’ll be able to do it again next year,” Tommasone said to applause.
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