Thursday, August 3, 2017

Business as usual: Let's talk about our pay raises ....after election day

Pay raises for elected officials has always been a touchy subject. During my 12 years on the town board, I refused to vote for a raise for myself, and I was successful in convincing the other Councilmen to agree with me. To me, it was an honor to be allowed to serve on the board; I wasn't there for the money. The small salary was a way of compensating for gas and mileage and other small outlays when driving in and around the town to gather information in the decision making process. (Since I've left, the board thinks differently and gives themselves an annual pay increase. Whatever.)

But the elected leadership of Oneida County thinks differently.

In his annual budget proposal last November, County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. included a slew of raises for elected leaders. He was not ashamed to ask for an over $20,000 increase in his salary, about 18.4% when calculated. This would have taken his $114,869 salary to $135,000, not including perks like expenses and getting a white Cadillac Escalade to drive complete with a county gas card to keep it filled up. To be honest, I don't know if he still has the Escalade; maybe he's driving another county car now. But he drove the Caddy and you, John Q. Public paid for it.

To make it sale-able to the Board of Legislators, he proposed they get an increase also. Everything looked like it was going to pass until one Marcy Legislator balked. Apparently, the deal was that everybody was supposed to vote for it. Mr. Flisnik threw a wrench in the works and the idea was withdrawn ... for the moment, anyway.

But make no mistake about it; like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies, this will be back... with a vengeance.

To add insult to injury, the chairman of the board apologized not to the public, but to the Legislators themselves, telling them "they deserved it."

Maybe he's right, maybe they did deserve a pay raise. Or maybe not. But in any event, raises for elected officials should never be more than any rank and file employee is given (usually 1 to 2 percent). If 1 or 2 percent is good enough for the workers, then it's good enough for their bosses also.

Also, there is at least one Union that has not had a settled contract for quite a while now. The Corrections Officers have been working without a contract (and I hear the Road Patrol might also be in the same boat); these need to be settled. Until they have a new contract, they don't get a pay raise. For the Board to even consider pay raises for themselves while these work units get none is just wrong. Further, it's a slap in their face, not to mention hurting their retirement income.

One of the planks of my campaign is that raises for elected officials should never be more percentage-wise than what the rank and file workers get. Personally, I'm comfortable with no pay raises for officials and think of the salary in the same way I did as Councilman: Use it to drive through your district while working on solutions to problems.

I'm just wondering how many Oneida County taxpayers got an 18.4% (or better) raise in their salary last year. Please, if you did, let me know so I can congratulate you on your work credentials. I'm guessing nobody rang that bell, but again, if you are in private industry and did it, then you have my sincerest applause.

Until the sales tax rate is dropped from it's obscene 8.75% to match at least one of our neighboring counties tax rate, I'm opposed to any salary increase for elected officials.

Or maybe let's take it a step further: Let's start lowering Legislators salary until this goal is met. That ought to provide some motivation to work on it. If we don't, we're going to continue to bleed. Our best and youngest talents are not going to stay here. Many retirees will continue to flee, and they will take their lifetime of accumulated wealth with them.

If you don't elect new representation that recognizes the problem, then nothing will change. We will continue our 40+ year population loss (~1000 people a year) and those of us left will be faced with higher and higher taxes. This exodus has to stop. To stop it, we have to abandon the idea of borrowing and spending hundreds of millions of dollars for empty buildings in Marcy, box-suites in the Auditorium and a downtown hospital (that nobody wants) with a parking garage that will never realize a return on investment for the people that paid for it.... and pass a budget that contains real tax breaks.

I'm respectfully asking for your vote on Primary Day, September 12. Let's make Oneida County great again.

-Don

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