The Saratoga Springs City Council rejected salaries Tuesday for the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority’s executive director and other staffers, a nonbinding resolution that some council members hope will send a statement to the authority even if it has no effect on the salaries.
The council voted 4-1 against the salary schedule for the entire authority staff for 2012-13 and for the executive director and executive secretary for 2013-14, largely because the authority did not provide a rationale for how it arrived at the salaries.
“It sets the record, and I think that’s important,” said Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who brought the resolutions forward.
Some City Council members also believe Executive Director Edward Spychalski is overpaid at $144,921 a year, a salary that rose from about $72,000 in 2008, and Tuesday’s vote appeared aimed mainly at Spychalski’s salary.
“By anything that I look at, he’s considerably overpaid,” said John Franck, commissioner of accounts. “For the other rank and file, I feel bad … [but] without having all the salary information in front of me, it makes it difficult.”
The state Comptroller’s Office, in an audit released in December, found Spychalski’s salary to be the highest director’s salary at any housing authority in the Capital Region, including authorities that are much larger.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen cast the single “no” vote and suggested tabling the resolution until July, saying he wanted to hear more information from the housing authority.
“Is it egregious? I don’t know,” he said. “Is it out of character compared to other housing authorities? I haven’t seen that.”
Madigan bristled at his comments, saying she has asked multiple times for comparable salary information and hasn’t received it.
“Want me to go stand on my head before the housing authority meeting on Thursday and ask again?” she snapped.
Mayor Scott Johnson voted against the salaries, but said he did so only because the authority had not provided enough information. He added that he hoped the authority would come back with the comparable salaries and the City Council could vote again.
But Eric Weller, chairman of the housing authority board, said he has given the city information comparing Spychalski’s salary to principals in the Saratoga Springs City School District.
“I’ve provided [it] so many times, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve provided [it],” he said.
The authority is set to vote at a meeting Thursday on its preliminary budget, which includes the 2013-14 salaries. Spychalski’s salary is to be frozen at $144,921 next year. The director has said he intends to retire at the end of next year or in 2015.
State public housing law provides for cities to vote for or against salaries at housing authorities, but gives them no authority to change the salaries. Since the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approves the authority’s final budget and provides funding, Weller said he believes the local authority is responsible for reporting to HUD, not the city, which does not fund the authority.
“They don’t have a problem, and they’re telling us, ‘Go ahead,’ ” Weller said of HUD. “You can’t be beholden to two masters.”
The Saratoga Springs Housing Authority administers 339 units of public housing at the Stonequist Apartments on South Federal Street and in the Jefferson and Vanderbilt terraces area.
Tuesday’s vote rejected all 2012-13 salaries except that of the accountant because there was no comparable salary information provided. The state comptroller’s audit determined the accountant’s salary was justified, so the city approved that salary for both years.
For 2013-14, the City Council approved most of the salaries because the authority staff unionized for next year and negotiated salaries within union guidelines. Only Spychalski, the accountant and the executive secretary are not part of the union, and council members said they didn’t have comparable information for the salaries of Spychalski and the secretary.