Panel discusses pay for top county officials, to meet again

Published Oct 12, 2017 at 4:00pm

Four top Oneida County elected officials will have to wait at least another week before learning whether a committee recommends they be given pay hikes.

The five-member Citizens Review Committee on Oneida County Elected Officials Compensation met for about an hour Tuesday without reaching any decisions on whether the pay for county executive, sheriff, comptroller and county clerk should be increased. However, there was a consensus that all four officials are underpaid compared with similar counties although the proportions vary by the office.

The panel decided to meet again Oct. 17 with the intent of settling on salary amounts and related issues. Besides pay figures, the committee at that time will also address whether any recommended increases should take effect next year, be held until the next term of each elected official begins or be implemented in phases. In addition, there’s the question of whether provisions should be put in place that allow for annual adjustments based on factors like inflation.

The 2017 salaries for the four are: County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., $114,375; Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, $101,492; Comptroller Joseph J. Timpano, $73,120; and County Clerk Sandra DePerno, $69,636.

At present, cost-of-living adjustments are determined by a local law. Annual increases or decreases for county clerk, comptroller, county executive and sheriff are based on the federal Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers. The salaries of the four officials actually decreased slightly in 2016 and 2017. The local law caps annual increases at 3 percent. 

Several of the county’s appointed department heads earn more than the county executive. Also, at least three people in the comptroller’s office are paid more than Timpano.

The committee previously recommended the annual pay of the 23 part-time members of the county Board of Legislators be raised to $16,000. This figure was incorporated into the 2018 budget proposed by Picente last week. The current $8,368 for lawmakers has been unchanged since 1994.

In 2016, a seven-member bipartisan committee of legislators reviewed and recommended salaries for elected officials. They were removed from the 2017 budget when it was adopted. The panel’s recommendations were: county executive $135,000; county legislators, $13,368; comptroller, $85,000; sheriff, $107,000; and county clerk, $73,636.

Also recommended was an annual cost-of-living increase that could not be less than 1½ percent or more than 2½ percent.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the citizens committee, the figures recommended by the legislative panel figured into the conversation as members discussed the four positions.

Several members said the county clerk’s salary was too low and going forward it should be in the range of $80,000 to $85,000.

It was noted that the average salary for county executives around the state is nearly $135,000 — comparable to the number last year’s legislative panel recommended. However, one member said, given the responsibilities of the position and the size of the county government, she could support $150,000 for the county executive.

Still another member said that, in his mind, the salaries of the county finance commissioner and comptroller ought to be closer to each other. The finance commissioner is being paid $138,806 this year while the comptroller is getting $73,120.

The members are:

• Chairman Robert Comis, Sherrill (appointed by the Board of Legislators’ chairman);

• Dean Dzwonkas, Westmoreland (appointed by the majority leader);

• Mitchell Ford, New Hartford (appointed by the minority leader);

• Utica College President Laura Casamento; and

• Hans Arnold, New Hartford (both Casamento and Arnold appointed by the county executive).

Salaries for district attorney, as well county and family court judges, are set by the state. All are higher than any other elected county official.