When Montgomery County voters approved the charter for a new local government in November, they didn’t actually know how much the switch would cost.
Prior to the vote, the board’s chairman, the late Shayne Walters, said the new government would cost much more with the addition of a high-paying county executive. Other supervisors said it would cost less because there would be fewer legislators to pay.
The Education and Government Committee of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors will start conversations Tuesday night about how much the new positions will pay.
The current government structure pays 10 town supervisors and five Amsterdam city ward supervisors $10,000 each annually for their county duties, with the chairman of the board getting an extra $5,000 a year to compensate for his extra duties.
The new government format will replace the 15 supervisors with nine legislators, which should net some savings, but there will also be a county executive, which could eat up most of those savings.
Glen town Supervisor Lawrence Coddington did extensive research in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting. He said legislators in nine New York counties of similar population are paid anywhere from $7,500 to $20,000 a year, averaging out to about $10,000 a year. That’s what Montgomery County supervisors get now, so he’s not too worried about paying the legislators. He’s more concerned about paying the county executive.
The executive is an elected position, but a powerful one, overseeing every department head and essentially running the business end of the county. It’ll be a demanding job, worthy of what Coddington called “a good salary.” He’s just not sure how good.
Franklin County, for example, has a population of 51,000, about 1,000 more than Montgomery County. The executive employed to make sure things run smoothly for Franklin County residents gets $76,000 a year. That seems a doable figure to Coddington, but it’s the lowest salary of the counties he sampled.
On the higher end of the spectrum, Greene County, with a similar population, pays its executive $132,000 a year.
If the supervisors decide to pay the new government leaders at the top of the range, the total cost would be more than double the current salary paid to supervisors.
Coddington isn’t sure what to recommend at the meeting but said, “We’ll be on the low end of the spectrum.”
Amsterdam 2nd Ward supervisor Jeff Stark already has a few suggestions lined up.
“I want to make this as cost-neutral a transition as possible,” he said, “We don’t need to spend an extra $150,000 to make this happen.”
His plan is to pay the nine legislators a little less than nine supervisors currently collect and funnel the difference — along with the entire salaries of the other six supervisors — to the executive.
In his estimates, the county executive could be paid $77,000 a year with no increase in cost between governments.
“So some executives get over $100K a year,” he said. “Not here they don’t. We’re a struggling county. People would be falling over each other here for a $77,000 salary.”
He acknowledged a common concern among the board that lower pay wouldn’t attract any talent but dismissed the idea.
“People don’t get into government for the money,” he said.
After the supervisors discuss pay amounts Tuesday, the full board will likely vote on the issue Feb. 26.