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Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein says it's time to raise the pay of the town's elected officials and department heads. Even though there is still an economic crisis going on, he makes a strong case for his proposal.
Weinstein, who does not want a raise for himself, is suggesting an increase of 2 percent for council members, which would give them $500 more than the current $25,500.
There is never a good time politically to raise the pay of elected officials. But Weinstein is proposing a small increase for a part-time job that carries more-than-part-time demands. An increase in pay is a responsible way to attract the best possible candidates.
Weinstein also offered the compelling point that the raises are tied to performance. "We want to incentivize everyone to perform to the best of their ability," he said.
He points out that the town has been successful in controlling costs and reducing taxes each of the last three years. In spite of that, the last time elected officials received an across-the-board increase was 2004, although there have been intermittent raises for various elected officials since then.
Moreover, the salaries of many department heads have also been frozen. Both groups deserve a minor boost to reward performance and encourage continued good work, if nothing else.
Weinstein sees the propriety of suggesting a pay increase for elected officials at the same time he is recommending similar increases for some non-elected department heads.
Besides an increase for the town clerk ($65,000 to $66,300) and highway superintendent ($97,000 of total compensation, including three stipends, to $98,700), town justices (at $96,700) and town supervisor pay ($75,000) would remain unchanged.
But it is the proposed raise for the deputy supervisor that is proving interesting. Under Weinstein's plan the $3,000 stipend would remain as is, but the deputy supervisor would receive an additional $3,000 if assigned collective bargaining responsibilities with the town unions.
Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette, who has helped negotiate some union contracts, doesn't want a raise. He told a News reporter he is not going to support his own raise, nor any increase for any other elected positions. Ditto for Council Member Mark Manna. Council Members Steven Sanders, Barbara Nuchereno and Richard "Jay" Anderson told the reporter that they did not initially oppose cost-of-living adjustments, but their positions were not firm.
Opposition to the idea of a raise in the midst of a struggling economy makes sense for poor-performing governmental bodies, such as the State Legislature in Albany. If anything, the pay of the dysfunctional group should be slashed. Raises should be earned, especially for elected officials.
While far from perfect, Amherst town government is not state government, and, in this case, a small pay increase can be justified.