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Pay raises for top Erie County elected officials approved

Measure includes annual cost of living increases

February 21, 2019 - 3:18 pm

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - Erie County Legislators voted along their caucus allegiances to approve salary increases for the top three elected leaders in the county.

The 6-5 vote followed spirited discussion of an amendment that would have removed annual increases tied to the consumer price index from the measure.  The amendment failed and the salary recommendations were adopted with the annual increases included.

The nine-member Citizens Salary Review Commission of Erie County concluded the county executive, comptroller, and sheriff should all receive pay raises. With passage of the item, the next term of the county executive would go from an annual salary of $103,428 to $118,376. The comptroller's salary would go from $80,613 to $94,037 while the sheriff would increase from $79,092 to $89,343. 

Republicans argued the inclusion of an annual cost of living increase will thwart the effectiveness of the salary review commission and guarantee raises "until the end of time."

"We shouldn't be tying raises to the consumer price index and perpetuity every year," said Republican Legislator Joe Lorigo. "You hear the chairman of the legislator say that this is an adjustment, not a raise. That's political speak; these are raises. If we had tied the county executive's pay to the consumer price index 23 years ago, the last time there was an increase, today that salary would be over $181,000, which is $70,000 above what the recommendation for the new salary was by the commission."

Lorigo's conservative colleage Lynne Dixon agreed. She added that this is not a fair piece of legislation to Erie County residents.

"I think it's a little bit hypocritical that we are giving county-wide electeds pay raises while we are taking more money from taxpayers and not giving them a break," said Dixon. "It just seems wholly unfair, and I don't think it's right. We had a missed opportunity a couple months ago to give a break to taxpayers, and now we're turning around to those very same taxpayers that we said 'no' to a tax levy decrease, and now we're telling them they have to shell out more money for electeds."

Democratic Legislator Peter Savage argued that pay increases need to be considered to lure good candidates to those positions.

"We are a $1.7 billion operation," Savage began. "And just like the private sector would do, I think it's prudent that we review the compensation of our chief executive officer, our chief fiscal officer, and our chief law enforcement officer to insure that our compensation package is as competitive as it can be to attract the best possible candidates for those positions."

Savage also noted that these positions have gone more than two decades without a raise, and it's time to bump them up a little bit.

"It does not increases for lawmakers or legislators, and it was done so in a responsible, balanced fashion," he said. "I believe, after 23 years, we've done so in a public way, we've been transparent, this is not behind closed doors, this was not some side deal, it was done with citizens of this community getting together, conducting analysis, looking at other municipalities, looking at other counties from around the state, looking at the work functions of what these individuals are responsible for engaging in...and they determined that a modest adjustment was warranted, and I believe that recommendation was prudent."

Hear more from Savage below:

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