To listen to some county lawmakers, Onondaga County's top fiscal watchdog, the county comptroller, is underpaid. But is this the time to be giving anyone in elected office a big pay raise? YNN's Bill Carey says it's a decision facing county legislators in the coming week.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Even as county lawmakers struggled earlier this year to try to deal with looming budget deficits, they quietly considered raising the pay of the county's comptroller, Robert Antonacci.
"There are eight county comptrollers in New York State. And there was a request in the proposed budget for a $20,000 raise for our county comptroller, who is paid at the bottom of the scale," said Onondaga County Legislature Chairman James Rhinehart.
That amounts to a 22 percent boost in pay and many lawmakers balked at the idea. The plan died quietly.
Now, with the year drawing to a close, the idea is alive again, although in a modified form. The idea now is for a $12,000 raise, a 13.5 percent pay increase.
"There has been a little bit of discussion. I think it's a good compromise," Rhinehart said.
Majority republicans on the legislature appear to have the votes to approve the pay hike. But democrats, in the minority, say they will make their opposition very clear.
"We're not in this for pay. And I think that the better part of prudence for all of the politicians involved is to back off and be leaders here and support the people down below, not the people up on top," said Onondaga County Legislator Thomas Buckel.
The comptroller, who has run as a fiscal conservative, says he is not campaigning for or against the raise. He admits a big pay hike, delivered Christmas week during a tough financial year, is not good politics.
"The timing is never good. Our fellow taxpayers are out of work. It's never a good time to talk about raises for elected officials, especially. But what we've seen is a recognition, by the county, that we will adjust where appropriate," Antonacci said.
Antonacci and the republicans say the proposed raise is appropriate.
The comptroller pay raise is expected to come up for a vote by the full legislature at its meeting on December 21st.