SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The City Council will consider raising the annual salary of the five council members from $14,500 to $30,000.
The change, proposed last week by Mayor Meg Kelly, would recognize that the the city's mayor and four elected commissioners, who together function as the City Council, in many cases put in nearly full-time hours, even though the positions are considered part-time.
The salaries have not changed since at least 2001. Kelly said the $30,000 salary has been discussed with other council members and it has been traditional that the mayor and four commissioners all be paid the same amount.
Raising the salaries would require the council adopting a local law. The council will hold a public hearing on the matter at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the city Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Terrace. The hearing will continue at the Sept. 17 council meeting, and a decision is tentatively slated for the Sept. 17 meeting.
"As we are entering the  budget season, the time is right for a fair and reasonable discussion about these salaries, considering the duties, responsibilities, time commitment and the goal of attracting qualified, diverse candidates," Kelly said at the Aug. 20 council meeting.
Under city's unusual form of government, the mayor and four commissioners oversee the departments of public works, public safety, city finance and accounts are elected, and together form the council. Commissioners and the mayor are considered part-time, and generally have full-time deputies who oversee day-to-day management.
In recent years, there have been several efforts to change the city charter and adopt a more conventional government structure, but voters have turned those changes down. That happened most recently last fall, when voters rejected a plan that included shifting responsibilities between some departments.
"Council members are supposed to be part-time," Kelly said. "Consider what $14,500 per year means: At 20 hours per week, you get $13.94 per hour, at 30 hours a week you get $9.29 an hour, at 50 hours per week you get $5.58 per hour. Next year, New York state's minimum wage will be $11.80 an hour."
Kelly estimates that she works about 50 hours per week, and most of the commissioners also work a substantial number of hours. She noted that upstate cities of similar size generally pay more.
"We've talked about this since when I first came to City Hall and even before that," she said. "We have to do something. If were going to be moving the city in the right direction, we have to be moving in that direction."
State law prohibits elected officials from raising their salaries during their terms in office, but since there are elections for all five seats this November, the current council could raise the salaries of the council that will take office in January. Kelly, a Democrat who is in her first two-year term and was deputy mayor before that, is running for re-election.