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Panel proposes pay hikes for county officials

DAN GUZEWICH, Staff writer
Posted 10/23/17

Four top elected Oneida County officials could receive raises of $13,508 or more next year.A five-member citizens committee has unanimously recommended a package of pay hikes for county executive, …

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Panel proposes pay hikes for county officials

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Four top elected Oneida County officials could receive raises of $13,508 or more next year.

A five-member citizens committee has unanimously recommended a package of pay hikes for county executive, sheriff, county comptroller and county clerk. It also recommended that the Board of Legislators take the necessary actions to incorporate the raises, ranging from 13.3 percent to 22.4 percent, into the 2018 spending plan that is now being reviewed by lawmakers.

The proposed salaries are: 

• County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., $140,000, a $25,625 increase, or 22.4 percent, from the current $114,375; 

• Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, $115,000, a $13,508 hike, or 13.3 percent, from the current $101,492;

• Comptroller Joseph J. Timpano, $87,000, a $13,880, or 18.9 percent, from the current $73,120; and 

• County Clerk Sandra J. DePerno, $85,000, a $15,364 hike, or 22 percent, from the current $69,636.

While incumbents would receive a pay raise, their successors in office would also receive the bigger salary as well — the salary is tied to the job, not the person in office.

The Citizens Review Committee on Oneida County Elected Officials Compensation sent its report to Board of Legislators Chairman Gerald J. Fiorini, R-7, Rome and the county executive on Monday. The spending plan could be amended by legislators to enact the recommendations before the budget’s scheduled adoption Nov. 8. Or, it could adjust them or do nothing at all.

The committee took no stand on the annual indexing that now applies to the four positions. However, it did recommended that the effectiveness of the local law be reviewed. 

Of particular concern to the members is the feature in the local law that allows for decreases in pay, based on the formula used to determine the yearly adjustments.

In addition, the report recommends that the citizens committee be reconvened in four years to take a fresh look at the salaries for the county’s elected officials. 

The same committee earlier this month recommended raising the salaries of the 23 legislators from $8,368 to $16,000, an increase of about 91 percent. Their current pay has been the same since 1994.

The higher legislative salaries were built into the spending plan submitted by the county executive to the legislature on Oct. 5. The hike will take effect unless lawmakers change their higher pay level or even pull the raise prior to the budget’s adoption next month.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, the committee members struggled with settling on a package of salaries for county executive, sheriff, county comptroller and county clerk as they considered factors like what they thought the job should pay, what counties around New York were paying and comparable salaries in other sectors. Several times during their discussion they said the focus needed to be on the position and not the officeholder.

“I just want to vote on what I feel is the right thing,” said committee member Hans Arnold. “Let’s do the right thing on all these [salaries].”

During their review of the county executive’s salary, it was noted that a number of Picente’s appointed department heads currently earn more than the county executive.

“You can’t have a county executive making less than the people he supervises,” said Arnold.

Arnold and Laura Casamento both said they could support paying the county executive $150,000. “There’s no question in my mind that position of county executive is a $150,000 position,” said Casamento.

Chairman Robert Comis, Dean Dzwonkas and Mitchell Ford couldn’t reach this number, and the $140,000 was the resulting compromise figure.

“The committee believes that this level is appropriate for the position and places the salary in line with that paid to other county executives across New York state,” said the seven-page report. “It also corrects the problem and brings the position in line with the eight department heads who serve at the pleasure of the county executive.”

Justifications were provided for the recommended salaries for sheriff, comptroller and county clerk as well.

Picente said the recommendations address ongoing inequities.

“This has been going on for a long time and at some point it has to be fixed,” he said. “The longer you wait the wider the gap is going to be.”

In 2016, a seven-member bipartisan committee of legislators reviewed and recommended salaries for elected officials, including legislators. However, they were removed from the 2017 budget when it was adopted.

The citizens committee looked at these numbers during its considerations. In all instances. the citizens panel came up with higher figures for the positions than did the committee of legislators.

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