Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Raises For Elected Officials?

Sure. Why Not? As Long As Homeowners Get Corresponding Tax Cut!

Pay raise, shmay raise.

You're not going to get us embroiled in the age-old argument of whether elected officials "deserve" a pay hike. [The electorate, being what it is, "deserves" what they get, and that includes elected officials who vote themselves raises right after the election, as if by mandate.]

Part-time office holders receiving full-time pay? Nonsense. Any County Legislator or Town Councilman worth his or her salt is on the job 24/7 -- fielding phone calls, attending community meetings, foregoing family, privacy, and a life in the name of public service.

Yes, but they hold other, full-time jobs, don't they?

So, you too can run for public office, and practice law, run a business, drive a limo, or write a blog. Who's stopping you? [The Democrats are always looking for bright, energetic candidates. Call Jay (not related to Judy) Jacobs for a petition.]

We would never begrudge elected representatives from securing for themselves (as would we all from our respective employers) compensation commensurate with their duties -- or should we say, with the diligent performance of those duties.

No one in his or her right mind would take a job as County Legislator for $42,000, or for that matter, Town of Hempstead Councilmember for $56,500. Unless you are independently wealthy, retired, or right out of college without a family to support or a mortgage to pay, you'd go broke.

If you want to attract good people to public service, you have to pay a decent, living wage, at least somewhat in-line with salaries in the private sphere.

But wait. This is not corporate America, where CEOs rake in millions, and ballplayers quadruple that. This is government work, on the people's payroll.

There has to be accountability, transparency, and a duty owed to the "shareholders" -- in this case, the taxpayers who foot the bill for every dollar that goes into the bank account of a legislator, for health and medical benefits of part-time (or no show) employees, and for pensions and perks for special district commissioners.

More than this, the shareholders need (say "deserve," if it makes you feel better) to be paid dividends when their elected reps get raises.

Call it a quid pro quo or tit for tat.

If the Town Supervisor gives herself an 8% raise, then every property owner in the township gets a corresponding 8% tax cut. [For this year, given that we've already paid our tax bill, we'll take an 8% rebate. You get the raise in your pay check when we get the rebate check in our mailbox!]

County Legislators want a raise of 25%? 50%? 75%?

No problem. Just give us taxpayers corresponding property tax cuts of 25%, 50%, or 75%.

Heck, you can double your salaries -- yes sir, 100% increases -- provided that you rip up our property tax bills and call it even.

We think this is a perfectly fair, and entirely equitable, arrangement. The elected get more money. Those who elect get to keep more money. Its a wash.

And who will pay for these increased salaries when the revenues raised by taxes decrease and the pot nears empty?

Not to worry. They can always float a bond, or "freeze" taxes while imposing a hike in the tax rate. If history is a guide, you'll be none the wiser when the next election rolls around.
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Hempstead supervisor seeks 8-percent raise

Weeks after Republicans were re-elected to a majority in Hempstead, town Supervisor Kate Murray will propose giving herself a nearly 8 percent pay raise, the largest of any supervisor on Long Island.

Murray is proposing $55,000 in pay increases effective in January 2008 that will also include a bump in salary for the six town council members, the town clerk and the tax receiver.

Hempstead is the only town in Nassau County to award raises to its elected officials for 2008, proposed budgets show.

The biggest pay hike of $10,000 would go to Murray, bringing her salary to $140,000. That's a 7.6 percent increase. Her last raise came in 2006 when she got a $15,000 increase. If the raise is approved by the town board, Murray will become the second-highest-paid supervisor on Long Island. Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone will earn $150,850 next year, a 4.5 percent raise. North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman is third with $133,000 and no pay increase for 2008. Fourth is Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, who will continue to earn his 2007 salary of $125,000 next year.

"The town board works very hard for the residents of Hempstead," Murray said. "We're America's largest township, and I believe the salary adjustments are justified."

The six members of the Hempstead town board would each receive a $5,000 raise, bringing their part-time salaries to $61,500. That's also a 7.6 percent increase. They last received $5,000 raises in 2006.

Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, the lone Democrat on the board, said she doesn't think the pay raise is out of line.

"I know I work full-time and I have to because of the needs of my community," Goosby said. "I really serve the people well and work hard for it."

Town clerk Mark Bonilla will receive a $7,500 raise, bringing his salary to $96,500, plus $23,000 he earns as the town's registrar. That 7.6 percent increase is also Bonilla's first raise in two years.

A resolution will be introduced at today's town board meeting to schedule a public hearing for Dec. 11 on the proposed pay increases, town officials said.

Hempstead's receiver of taxes, Donald Clavin Jr., would receive a $7,500, or 7 percent increase, bringing his salary to $110,000. This raise, however, is historically not subject to a public hearing.

All the raises must be approved by the town board.

The town contract calls for a yearly pay increase of about 4 percent. None of the officials have received raises since 2006.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi created a controversy earlier this year when he proposed a hefty pay raise that would increase his salary from $109,394 to $174,614. The county legislature must vote on that. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy earns $174,613 a year.

Supervisor salaries
How Hempstead's proposed pay hike would stack up:
TOWN 2007 2008 RAISE
Huntington $144,354 $150,850 4.50%
Hempstead 130,000 140,000 7.69
North Hempstead 133,000 133,000 --
Oyster Bay 125,000 125,000 --
Riverhead 108,863 113,000 3.80
Brookhaven 107,500 110,489 2.78
Smithtown 104,376 107,600 3.09
Islip 103,500 103,500 --
Southampton 101,950 102,000 0.05
Babylon 98,676 98,676 --
East Hampton 92,914 96,863 4.25
Southold 86,992 86,992 --
Shelter Island 66,543 70,000 5.20

Source: Towns
Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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