SCHENECTADY COUNTY — The Schenectady County sheriff, county clerk and members of the County Legislature could all be in line for significant raises under proposals being considered by county legislators.
The Legislature at a special meeting on Wednesday set public hearings for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, on the raises, all of which would go to elected officials. The lawmakers are then expected to take action by adopting the necessary local law at their year-end meeting scheduled for Dec. 19.
Under the proposal, the salary of County Clerk Cara Jasenski Ackerley would increase from the budgeted $93,989 to $98,000. Ackerley, who was elected to a four-year term in 2018, is the daughter of County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam.
Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, meanwhile, would see his annual salary increased from the current $99,379 to $112,500, starting next year. Dagostino was elected to his first four-year term in 2009, when the salary was about $95,000, where it remained for many years. But under a law adopted in 2016, the sheriff got three years of annual increases, reaching $99,379 for 2019. At that salary, Dagostino is the lowest-paid sheriff in the immediate Capital Region.
“These salaries are for the position, not the individual in that office,” said Legislature Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady.
For the 15 members of the County Legislature, their pay wouldn’t rise until 2021, but it would go up by about 35 percent — from the current $14,093, which has been unchanged since 1999, to $19,000 per year. Legislators didn’t want to give themselves raises during the county financial crisis following the Great Recession, Hughes said.
“This body has some substantial accomplishments and I think we are at the point where we have the financial stability for this to take place,” Hughes said.
The Legislature is controlled by an alliance of Democrats and Conservatives, with only one Republican currently on the board — Brian McGarry of Rotterdam.
County Republican Chairman Chris Koetzle, who is also the Glenville town supervisor, questioned the timing, as well as the size of the raises being proposed for members of the Legislature.
“It seems odd to me that after the budget was just passed, and the elections just passed, the legislators giving themselves raises,” Koetzle said. “The timing just seems very suspect. They just went through the budget process.”
Koetzle said he may attend Tuesday’s hearing if his schedule permits, but acknowledged speaking out would likely be futile.
“That’s something that should go through the regular budget process and be out before the election,” he said. “This is what you get when you have one-party rule. What’s the justification for doing this after the budget process? Their duties haven’t changed.”
Hughes said the raises for the county clerk and sheriff are based on the past practice of giving them raises that match the raises that other county managers receive, which is generally tied to the raises negotiated with employee unions. Elected officials generally can’t receive mid-term increases unless a local law is passed.
“The Legislature hasn’t had an increase in 20 years, or 1.5 percent per year on an annual basis,” Hughes said. “I know we have justification. Members don’t have expense accounts, and when we travel to a meeting, that’s on our dime. Members are involved in various other government organizations, and there are those costs as well.”
The legislators have done a good job for taxpayers, he said. “Five years of no tax increase and one tax cut, so it’s not as if we’re not meeting the public’s expectation.”
The raises, Hughes added, are “not a lot within the grand cosmic scheme of a $310 million [county] budget.”