Proposed Raises Haunt Capital Region Budgets
Some public officials in the Capital Region are in line for big raises this budget cycle.
Earlier this month, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy released his proposed $112.9 million budget for the coming year. The following week, fellow Democrat Albany County Executive Dan McCoy released his $733 million dollar 2020 budget.
16 percent raises for certain officials were included in both documents.
Schenectady Independent City Councilor Vince Riggi: "Well the mayor has himself in for a 16 percent pay increase. A little over $15,000. So I thought that was interesting, and I thought the interesting thing also was the mayor failed to mention that when he was giving his budget overview. That's quite a big thing to fail to mention."
16 percent was also cited in McCoy's budget that would raise the salaries of the Albany County Executive himself, Sheriff Craig Apple, and the county comptroller.
With longtime Comptroller Mike Conners retiring, Democrat Sue Rizzo faces Darius Shahinfar on the Working Family and Independence Party lines and David Yule on the Republican line in November.
Albany County Legislator Mark Grimm is a Republican. "Especially surprising for the comptroller because we have a new one. So, before she even arrives in office they're giving that position a big pay raise, you know, so that's really surprising, certainly but... They did get big pay raises four years ago right at this time, at the end of the year, at the end of the term, so I do think those positions pay a reasonable amount of money, and that's why I think it's a heavy lift."
McCoy and Apple are seeking third terms in Albany County, and McCarthy is seeking a third term in Schenectady.
Riggi believes Schenectady’s City Council isn't very supportive of McCarthy's raise. "To ask for it in one lump sum I think is what startled many, and on top of everything else, this is an election year for four of us on the city council, a majority of the city council, the majority, not the party majority, but the majority members of the city council, there's four seats up for reelection, so, in hindsight I guess, maybe Gary picked a bad year for asking for this raise, you know, because there's four of us. So it doesn't look like he's gonna have support from everyone for 16 percent. My guess is it's going to be whittled down to a smaller, much smaller percentage rate. There's probably gonna be a raise. I don't know if I'm gonna say 'aye' to that."
Schenectady councilors are planning to meet tonight for a budget vote, pending adoption of the plan Monday night. "Somebody at our public hearing for the budget, which was the last council meeting, they broke it down to how much per resident would it come to. And this lady that presented it said, she made a pretty good argument, she said per resident we're at about 62, 65,000 and Albany is much more. She broke it down to that and the mayor is making actually more, the mayor of Schenectady is at, right now presently, at the 97,000 I think, round numbers, is at more per resident than Mayor Sheehan is in Albany."
McCarthy, who is running unopposed, did not return calls for comment, and neither did Apple and Rizzo.
McCoy faces Libertarian Robert Porter. "Four years ago we got criticized for not putting it in the budget. This year it was in the budget, the numbers were put in, Sheriff Apple submitted his numbers to me in July, what he thought his salary should go up to, so I looked at everything and I agreed with him. And then, the new comptroller coming in. Our salaries can only be set for four years, so what this does, it means I don't get a pay raise for year two, three or four. It's just the way the statute is, so it has to be up front, because you're not supposed to take a raise in the second, third, fourth year of your term. So, it does look like a big number, but really, you know if you break it down, over the four years it would be four, four and four. So you know, I looked at what the county executive manager in Schenectady County made. So, they make $165,000. I looked at what Saratoga County manager makes. We compared around and I think that I have proven myself to the voters in Albany County, and is the legislature gonna change it? They could. It's just a number we put in there, and we'll go from there."
McCoy emphasized that his plan and the 16 percent raises are a proposal. County Legislator Grimm offers a lower number. "We've negotiated a lot of union contracts, and we've given 2 percent to all the rank and file. So I'm of the mind that I think we should be a lot closer to 2 percent a year for the electeds to be consistent with what the union members got."
Democratic Albany County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce could not be reached for comment but told the Times Union that legislators are asking for justification and comparable information from other area counties. Public hearings on McCoy's budget are scheduled Tuesday, October 29th, and Tuesday, November 19th.