The Schenectady City Council seems ready to go along with Mayor Gary McCarthy’s plan to fill the vacant assessor’s job with Bureau of Receipts Supervisor Ed Waterfield. That’s troubling not only because Waterfield has no experience as an assessor, but because the mayor wants to give him a healthy raise. And McCarthy has apparently convinced council members that his proposed $82,000 salary is the “going rate” for assessors in the region, when there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s not.
Waterfield’s predecessor, Tina Dimitriadis, was willing to take the job two and a half years ago for just $73,000, and worked at that salary until McCarthy recently fired her, ostensibly for failing to comply with the city’s residency law. She, at least, had some experience when she came to the city from Troy, where she was paid only $56,900 in the same job. (Troy’s current assessor is paid just over $72,000.)
Thus we’re inclined to side with City Councilman Vince Riggi, who’s planning to vote against Waterfield’s appointment when it comes to before the City Council Monday. Even though the council has reportedly compromised on the $9,000 raise, agreeing to withhold half of it until Waterfield gets his assessor certification (he’ll have six months to do so), why give him any raise at all until he does? And why so much, given the city’s (and its taxpayers’) financial plight?
Maybe $9,000 seems insignificant in view of the city’s $78 million budget, but it has been exactly this kind of thinking repeatedly over the years that has led to its fiscal predicament. And as most observers of municipal government are keenly aware, big raises are the gift that keep on costing taxpayers — as increased pension payments — until the beneficiary passes on.
Maybe we’d feel different about Waterfield if he had some assessment experience; if there was evidence that the “going rate” for assessors in similarly sized cities around here really was $82,000 (we’ll be on the lookout for Councilwoman Marion Porterfield’s study); or if Waterfield wouldn’t take the job without such a raise. In the absence of any of the above, we think his pay should be held at its current rate until he gets certified, then raised like other department heads’ are.