County Legislature approves salary increases for elected officials

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:49

    GOSHEN-The Orange County Legislature has approved salary increases for elected officials. The increases take effect in 2006, after elections for all officials except the sheriff. The election for sheriff is one year behind other officials because of the appointment of a sheriff to fill out the remainder of the term of James Garvey, who died in office. Legislature Democrats opposed the raises in general because they are out of line with raises for union employees and because county taxes are increasing this year. "Voting against these raises will be my contribution to keeping taxes down," said Legislator Wayne Decker of Cuddebackville. Republicans argued that the legislators are not voting themselves a raise because the increased salaries won't take effect until after the next election. Bonnie Kraham of Middletown said incumbents have a great electoral advantage and that most of the legislators voting on the salaries could expect reelection. Kraham also noted that the county's union employees received a 3.5 percent increase, while elected officials would receive as much as 30 percent. On the other hand, the raises implement the findings of an independent study by Condrey and Associates, said Spencer McLaughlin of Monroe. While the county can afford to increase the salaries of elected officials because of greater than anticipated sales tax revenue, "whether we have extra money or not, these salaries are appropriate," he said. Legislature Chairman A. Alan Seidman said the 3.5 percent raise in union contracts is misleading, because annual salary increases for seniority are built into the contract, meaning that any individual employee will get more than the basic increase. Thomas Pahucki of New Hampton argued that when making a comparison between county legislators' salaries and those of town supervisors and village mayors, legislators appear to be overpaid. "These are virtually full-time jobs," he said, but there is a crisis of leadership [because of low salaries]. He noted that it is at the town level that such problems as sprawl must be dealt with. The legislators split on the votes for the various local laws applying to different positions. Most contentious was the sheriff's salary, as the Democratic legislators were particularly opposed to increasing any official's salary before the next election for that post. They wanted no increases before the next sheriff takes office in 2007. Seidman argued that the sheriff does not vote on his salary, so the question of officials voting on their own salaries - the main reason for postponing raises - does not apply. L. Stephen Brescia of Montgomery prepared a table showing the salaries of sheriffs in nearby counties. The salaries varied from Rockand's $112,050, where the sheriff's budget is $28 million to Sullivan's $70,107. Sullivan County Sheriff's budget is just over $10 million. The Orange County Sheriff now earns $80,000 per year and manages a budget of $35 million, according to Brescia's figures. Voting against the sheriff's salary increase were Minority Leader Anthony Marino and Jeff Berkman, Harvey Burger, Wayne Decker, Roxanne Donnery, Frank Fornario, Bonnie Kraham and Michael Paduch. Decker, Berkman and Kraham voted against all the proposed increases. Marino joined them in voting against increases for committee chairmen. The salaries proposed for 2006 are: County Executive, $150,000 (up from $114,752 in 2005, a 31 percent increase); Sheriff, $95,690 ($78,605 in 2005, a 22 percent increase); County Clerk $88,855 ($78,605, up 13 percent); Legislature Chairman, $41,010 ($33,278, up 23 percent); Legislature Majority and Minority leaders, $30,074 ($25,246, up 19 percent); Legislative Committee Chairs, $27,340 ($21,655, up 26 percent); Legislators, $24,606 ($20,655, up 19 percent); District Attorney, $136,700 ($125,600, up 8 percent); Chief Administrative Coroner, $16,404 ($14,344, up 14 percent), and Coroners, $13,670 ($12,623, up 8 percent).