Pay hikes slated for Schoharie County officials for 2014 — some in excess of $10,000 — will undergo close scrutiny before gaining approval, several supervisors said Wednesday.
The county’s Board of Supervisors met to hear the first public comment on the 2014 tentative budget before several county lawmakers questioned major raises for department heads and a boost in salary for the board members themselves.
County Treasurer William Cherry last month released the $71.7 million tentative budget, which cuts the average county property tax rate by 1.52 percent and projects a $7.17 million fund balance.
Citing slow growth in non-union salaries compared with steady pay hikes for union employees, Cherry set grades for different positions as labor unions do.
Setting out to ensure that department heads earn more than the employees they supervise, Cherry elevated the proposed salaries to match those grades. The result put one proposed pay hike at more than 24 percent — that of a deputy election commissioner whose $37,998 salary would rise to $47,372.
County supervisors are in line for a $966 raise over their current $12,075 annual pay, and the board chairman’s $21,000 salary is slated to rise by 8 percent up to $22,680.
“It seems like it’s kind of out of line, if you ask me,” Middleburgh Supervisor James Buzon said.
The county clerk’s salary, currently set at $62,938, is proposed to increase to $79,580. The budget proposal shows the department sought only a $3,146 increase in the clerk’s salary.
“That’s a lot. Why are we adding an extra $13,000 on top of that? If you ask me, there’s something wrong there,” Buzon said.
Though it appears union members are getting a tiny raise while non-union workers get a big one, Cherry said nonunion salaries haven’t kept pace with union salaries.
Including seniority pay increases, union members have enjoyed a 17 percent boost in salary over the past five years, while nonunion employees got 2.5 percent.
Concerned citizen Earl Gaskill, a regular speaker at the county Board of Supervisors’ public comment sessions, called the raises “unacceptable.”
“Don’t try to smooth off in 12 months what you haven’t done in five years,” he said.
Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone said it’s appropriate to elevate the pay of department heads who, in some cases, make less than those they supervise.
“That’s inadequate, and it didn’t get that way overnight,” he said.
Gaskill, of Summit, said he was least impressed with the idea of giving the county supervisors more money. “Most of the members here, in my opinion, should resign,” he said.
Board Chairman Phil Skowfoe said he’s expecting changes to be made to the spending plan.
He said though it may be a means of bringing fairness to the pay, addressing the inequity all within the 2014 budget makes some salaries “jump too high too quick.” He said he won’t vote in favor of a pay increase for county supervisors.
The board’s Finance Committee on Wednesday began individual meetings with department heads to review budget plans.
The board can modify the tentative budget up until Dec. 20, the date it becomes law.