Schenectady may soon have a new assessor at a higher salary.
The Schenectady City Council agreed in committee Tuesday to grant a $9,000 salary increase to Bureau of Receipts Supervisor Edward Waterfield in anticipation of his appointment as city assessor.
The council will hold a final vote next Monday, and two members said they might not vote in favor. But that would not be enough “nay” votes to scuttle the proposal.
Mayor Gary McCarthy wants to hire Waterfield at a salary of $81,828.
The previous assessor, Tina Dimitriadis, was paid $73,000 a year. Waterfield is currently paid $72,825.
Three council members questioned the salary increase: Carl Erikson, Marion Porterfield and Vince Riggi.
After Porterfield questioned whether Waterfield deserved a salary increase, since he is not certified as an assessor, McCarthy asked the council to discuss the issue behind closed doors.
Afterward, Erikson said he had been persuaded to support the proposal.
He noted that Assessor Patrick Mastro, who resigned two years ago, was paid $82,000. That, he said, was “the going rate” for assessors locally.
“The amount we budgeted wasn’t enough,” he said.
But Porterfield said she would research the rate.
“There’s a market rate for beginners, intermediate and experienced,” she said. “What is that rate?”
She said she was not yet sure whether she would vote in favor.
Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, said he was opposed because of the salary increase.
“We’re not really saving any money,” he said. “We should be looking to cut the budget.”
He added that he was not persuaded by Mastro’s salary and argued that $82,000 could not be the “going rate.”
“Wait a minute — our last assessor was working for $73,000,” he said.
But four of the Democrats appeared to have agreed to a compromise. Erikson said they were willing to accept the $9,000 increase in stages. Waterfield could get half of it upon appointment and the other half after getting certified.
“The person who would assume the position is not certified,” Erikson said. “He meets the requirements but does not have the certification. Every other assessor we’ve hired was working somewhere [as an assessor], so they already had the certification.”
He said Waterfield would have six months to get his certification.
The council also agreed in committee to promote a deputy chief to assistant fire chief, adding back in a salary line that had been deleted to save money. The position would pay $130,081 a year.
Chief Michael Della Rocco said the department needed a secondary manager in case something happened to him.
“And I am going to retire sometime,” he added. “As Winston Churchill famously said, ‘Failure to plan is planning to fail.’ And I do not want to be in that situation with the fire department.”
He said platoon leaders have occasionally done managerial work because no one else was available. He also admitted he’s getting tired.
“Sometimes I need a little break, too,” he said.
He said he had enough money to pay for an assistant chief out of savings in other budget lines this year.
Riggi argued that wasn’t enough — the city would still have to find money to pay the salary next year.
But Council President Margaret King said the position was clearly essential.
“I’m impressed you were able to get along for as long as you have without that position,” she said.