Most of the top managers in Schenectady County government are scheduled to receive raises under next year’s proposed budget, which projects a 13 percent tax hike.
Exceptions include County Manager Kathleen Rooney and Commissioner of Social Services Dennis Packard. Neither will see raises in their salaries; Rooney’s will remain at $123,000 and Packard’s at $131,122.
The county Legislature must approve the raises before they can take effect. It has to adopt the tentative $279.9 million budget before Nov. 1. If the budget is approved as is, the average taxpayer in Schenectady County would pay an extra $125 annually.
The raises average about 3 percent, but some managers also receive longevity steps. Therefore, some managers could receive salary increases of 5 percent or more, depending on how long the employee has worked for the county.
County Legislator Bob Farley, R-Glenville, said, “These are not performance-based raises.” The raises mirror those awarded to the county’s unionized workers through contract agreements, he said.
Managers did not receive a raise in the current year, said Legislator Philip Fields, D-Schenectady, chairman of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee.
“The county manager put in raises to boost morale in the non-union staff. The management staff has a lot of experience in issues related to the county and there are managers who are making less than union employees,” Fields said. “In some ways, I think the manager is trying to equalize this disparity.”
Fields said the Legislature will review the manager’s budget in coming weeks and the raises and “many more issues will be discussed.” The first two reviews are set for 6 p.m. Tuesday and 7 p.m. Thursday in the Legislature’s Chamber, County Office Building.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said 2008 was the first time in years that management employees did not receive a raise. Democrats took control of the Legislature in 2004; Republicans controlled it for three decades prior.
Farley said the proposed management raises should be removed from the budget. “They are not contract employees. They are all patronage employees. They should not be getting a raise when we are in such fiscal distress,” he said.
The county settled with Local 847 of the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents some 800 employees; the 200-member Service Employees International Union Local 1199; and the 25-member SEIU Local 721.
It reached agreement last week with the 150-member Sheriff’s Benevolent Association and a smaller unit of correction officers. The Legislature must ratify the agreement.
Legislator Joe Suhrada, R-Rotterdam, said the county pays some of its department heads more than the state pays its commissioners. Two of the county’s highest-paid managers, Finance Commissioner George Davidson and Planning Commissioner Ray Gillen, would make $141,437 and $155,228, respectively, in 2009 if the raises are approved. By contrast, Dr. Richard Daines, commissioner of the state Department of Health, earned $136,000 this year.
Suhrada said the county needs to trim its expenses this year, and he proposed that county legislators cut their pay in half as an example. County legislators are paid $14,093 annually. Leaders receive stipends that can push their pay to $16,499. There is no pay increase proposed for legislators in the 2009 budget.
“We have to stop acting like a Third World country looking for aid,” Suhrada said.
The state has already trimmed billions of dollars from its budget as a result of the current recession and Gov. David Paterson is calling for further cuts in a special session Nov. 18. The state cuts could further aggravate the county’s fiscal problems, legislators said.
Here are proposed salary increases for some of the top managers in county government, with their 2008 salary listed first:
District attorney, from $123,394 to $127,096.
County attorney, from $106,306 to $109,495.
Public defender, from $105,300 to $108,459.
Director of public works, from $105,797 to $108,971.
Director of information services, from $90,000 to $92,700.
Sheriff, from $89,328 to $92,008.
County clerk, from $84,483 to $87,017.
Director of human resources: $89,725 to $92,417.
Director of Real Property Tax Services, from $80,094 to $82,497.
Director of facilities, from $82,264 to $84,732.
Engineering director, from $80,409 to $82,821.
Special assistant to the commissioner, youth, from $80,000 to $82,400.
Director of communications, from $79,584 to $81,972.
Clerk of the county Legislature, from $77,250 to $79,568
Probation director, from $75,714 to $77,985.