Rotterdam’s preliminary 2014 budget includes a number of pay raises that one Town Board member is criticizing, given the increase in fees and cuts to services also proposed in the spending plan.
Among other salary increases, Supervisor Harry Buffardi’s budget proposal includes a $13,500 raise for his deputy. The budget also includes a marked hike in the contracted salaries for the town’s police chief and his deputy, which were negotiated when the town inked a new contract with the department’s administrative bargaining unit earlier this year.
Police Chief James Hamilton’s projected salary next year is $136,208 — an increase of nearly $12,000. The raise will bring Hamilton’s pay above the salary budgeted next year for the chief of police in the city of Schenectady, which has a force about four times larger than Rotterdam’s.
More modest discretionary raises were afforded to many of the town’s other elected or appointed officials and some of their deputies. Town Comptroller Jacqueline Every would receive a $4,640 boost, while both Highway Superintendent James Longo and Tax Collector Dawn Pasquariello would get an even $5,000 pay hike in the budget.
The town assessor’s salary will be boosted between $4,200 and $70,000, depending on who is appointed to the position. Assessor John Macejka Jr. effectively retired this month and has applied to be reappointed to the position, but he couldn’t collect both his pension and the full salary allotted in the budget.
Town Clerk Diane Marco was given a $5,350 raise in the budget. Lynn Flansburg, her deputy, was given a $4,755 boost.
Town Attorney Kate McGuirl’s salary was increased $5,600. Her office also received a $26,000 line item to hire a part-time paralegal, according to the budget.
In total, Buffardi’s budget calls for $23.2 million in spending, including the general fund, highway fund and all special districts. General fund and highway fund spending totaling about $19.7 million will bring the town’s tax rate to $4.08 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential properties, an increase of 44 cents over last year’s tax rate.
A public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 9.
Board member Robert Godlewski, a persistent critic of the Buffardi administration, blasted the raises at a time when the supervisor is proposing additional charges and fee hikes for many town residents. Buffardi’s budget proposes a $50 annual fee for yard waste pickup and a $50 hike in usage fees in all five of the town’s water districts.
In addition, Buffardi’s budget proposes to eliminate the town’s paramedic service. Last week, he said the savings from losing the paramedics and the added revenue from the fees will be necessary to pay for projected retirement costs the town is facing in the near future.
Godlewski bristled at the suggestion. He blamed Buffardi for doing little to contain the cost of town government, while simultaneously reducing revenues by entering into payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements with some of the Rotterdam’s largest property owners.
“All I’ve heard from this administration and all the board members is ‘we’ve got to cut costs,’ and then they turn around and hand out these pay increases,” he said. “They’re not walking the walk and they never have.”
Buffardi defended the raises as being long overdue and in line with what some of the town’s contracted employees are receiving. For instance, he said the raises included for the chief and his deputy are in line with the 2 percent annual increases included over five years in the contract recently signed with the Rotterdam Police Benevolent Association.
“Quantitatively it’s the exact same amount of money,” he said.
Buffardi also defended the deputy supervisor’s raise. He said Wayne Calder, who now serves in the capacity, works at Town Hall in excess of 40 hours per week.
Calder will be paid $10,000 this year as his Town Board salary and an additional $1,500 to serve as deputy supervisor and $1,300 to serve as human resource administrator. Buffardi’s budget will pay the deputy he appoints in January $25,000 but will eliminate the human resource administrator stipend.
“To say this can be done part-time at $1,500 per year is patently absurd,” Buffardi said.