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Foss: Reject Schenectady Mayor McCarthy's request for 16 percent raise

Foss: Reject Schenectady Mayor McCarthy's request for 16 percent raise

Foss: Reject Schenectady Mayor McCarthy's request for 16 percent raise
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy announces that he's running for a third term in City Hall on April 9.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

There's no right time to ask taxpayers for a 16 percent raise.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy's tone-deaf request for a double-digit boost in pay has met with opposition, for good reason. 

It's too much money. 

The mayor is certainly entitled to a raise, though some voters might quibble — he hasn't had one in 12 years. Love him or hate him, that's a long time. 

But 16 percent? 

Come on. 

The mayor has argued that the hefty bump is justified because his salary has remained flat for over a decade, he gave up the city-owned vehicle driven by his predecessor and he donates the fees he receives for performing weddings. 

Sorry, but none of this matters. 

And it's insulting to taxpayers to insist that it does. 

A raise isn't a reward for good deeds that nobody asked of you. 

Donating wedding fees is a nice thing to do, but it doesn't entitle you to a $15,785 raise, and it's ludicrous to suggest that it does. 

Nor is there anything laudable about going without a raise for so long if you're going to use it to rationalize a salary hike that's so enormous it negates all previous efforts at holding the line. 

The best way for a public official to make the case for a raise is also the most boring way: By requesting modest, incremental salary bumps that take rising costs and performance into consideration. (Remember: McCarthy already receives an annual pension of over $62,000 a year from his 30-year career as an investigator in the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office.) 

Had the mayor done that, his annual salary would likely be over $100,000 by now. 

But he opted instead to ask for an eye-popping sum in one fell swoop, which sparked fierce criticism. 

Now the Schenectady City Council — all Democrats, with the exception of Vince Riggi, an independent — appears poised to reject the mayor's proposed 16 percent raise. 

It's a welcome move and, if we're lucky, a harbinger of things to come. 

Council members know the pay raise isn't popular and have said so, thus distancing themselves from McCarthy and his wrongheaded proposal. 

It's the smart thing to do politically, but also good policy, and while I suspect the council's resistance to the 16 percent raise stems in part from it being an election year, it's still nice to see. 

It's the sort of thing we need more of, and perhaps 2020 will bring an emboldened council that asks harder questions of the mayor. 

In the meantime, the council has until Nov. 1 to adopt the spending plan for next year. 

Let's hope they do the right thing, and reject the mayor's absurd request. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.    

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