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Highlander

County Legislature Pay And Benefits

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Highlander    5

The following is a statement given by Anthony Pucci during the public comment portion of last night's Chemung County legislature meeting:

Quote

 

I’d like to offer a few observations tonight on the ad hoc Compensation and Benefits Committee that was recently established.

I have attended both meetings that this committee has had to date.

First of all, this committee is comprised of 5 members of the Legislature, 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats, selected by the Chairman. Is there a doubt in anyone’s mind that they will recommend a salary increase and/or increases in various perks for themselves and their colleagues? Why are legislators given the opportunity to decide on their own salary and compensation package?

Keep in mind that members of the legislature have voted to give themselves raises in each of the last 2 years, by a 12 – 3 vote two years ago, and by a 10 – 5 vote last year. At least that vote is trending in the right direction.

As I mentioned, I have attended both meetings of this ad hoc committee. There was no agenda for either meeting, and although the minutes of those meetings are now posted on the Legislature’s website, the documents handed out at those meetings are not available online.  My guess is that some of the legislators themselves may not know what ideas have been tossed around.

Here are a couple of them. The first concern expressed was that legislators receive a competitive wage and benefit package. However, just one hour later, when the Multi-Services Committee met and discussed a resolution opposing Prevailing Wage Legislation for taxpayer-supported projects in New York, there was some concern that paying prevailing wages would increase the cost of a project. Although there was no vote taken on that resolution, the sentiment was clear. Prevailing wages are good for the legislators, but not good for anybody else.

Another idea floated was to give the committee chairs a stipend for reading out loud resolutions that someone else has written at meetings. Since there are 7 standing committees that would provide increases for just about half of the legislators.  Still another suggestion was that the buyout given to legislators who choose not to take the health insurance should be increased from the current $1,500.

A better question for the committee might be why legislators are offered a health plan at all? From a FOIL request of the activity logs of the legislators that I made last year, I learned that the legislators’ self-reported working an average of 10.5 hours per week. Does that justify a health plan that costs the County approximately $12,000 per individual legislator or approximately $20,000 for a family plan?

Here’s another question for the committee: Why do the majority and minority leaders receive extra compensation? Less than half of the counties in the state offer that perk.

Let me be the first to say some legislators work many hours, but others do not. I’ve looked at activity logs for this year, and the number of hours has jumped considerably. The duties of a legislator haven’t changed, so I am somewhat confused by those numbers. Might I suggest that such activities as watching the President’s State of the Union address on television, watching the news, reading the newspaper, and going to a parade should not be counted as “work”?

Let me conclude by making a suggestion. If this group is serious about looking at the compensation package, why not follow the example of Erie County? They established a commission of 9 qualified members of the community to study the issue. Unlike Chemung County, none of the legislators sat on that committee. Instead of just tossing around subjective opinions, they studied many factors. How many residents does each legislator represent? It stands to reason that the more constituents, the more work. In Chemung County, each legislator represents an average of 5,900 residents. Statewide, the average is 23,000. In Erie County, it’s 84,000. Their commission looked at other factors as well such as the average household income and the average value of a home. They issued a 32 page report to the public.

I would urge Chemung County’s ad hoc committee to do your homework, and consider the financial difficulties facing the County and many of the families you represent before you give yourselves one more penny in salary or benefits.

 

 

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Ann    287

In my humble opinion no elected official should be allowed to determine their raises or benefits.

 

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Chris    951
8 hours ago, Highlander said:

I’ve looked at activity logs for this year, and the number of hours has jumped considerably. The duties of a legislator haven’t changed, so I am somewhat confused by those numbers. Might I suggest that such activities as watching the President’s State of the Union address on television, watching the news, reading the newspaper, and going to a parade should not be counted as “work”?

Wait, what?!?

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Adam    19

whats more one Legislator has already said, in writing, he feels if County Employees get a 3% then so should the legislature

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Chris    951

Well, it is a pretty "paltry" salary. 

I'll give one of them credit, he ends up giving some of it back to the community in various ways.

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Johnny Go    167

I'm fine with the pay, but the cadillac health insurance for a part time job?  That is totally unwarranted.  And then they want to increase their kick back if they opt out?  

How about they benchmark private business practices around these benefits?  Show me one private business which provides $20k health insurance policy for a part time worker.  As far as opt outs, I work for a Fortune 500 company and they don't pay you if you opt out.  It's a benefit, not a right.

If they don't like the thought of losing their benefits, then they can resign.  Other people who care more about helping the community than themselves would step up.

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KRSullivan    122

Actually the school district offers part time bus drivers the same benefits as full time employees.   They also have a buy out if they opt to not take it. Giving them $1,500 or 2,000 is cheaper than the cost of them having the benefits.  Pay a little now to save a lot later. 

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Johnny Go    167
Posted (edited)

I asked for private comparisons, not more of the same government policies.  Of course, governments have all sorts of other peoples money to spend.

Besides, even in government this is apples to oranges.  While bus drivers do indeed work part time, their work schedule makes it virtually impossible to hold a full time job. And they are working a heck of a lot more than 10.5 hours per week. Legislators, on the other hand, can schedule their obligations in such a way that they typically hold full time jobs.

Edited by Johnny Go
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KarenK    79

Pretty sure my company has an opt out too and its definitely not a Govt and is also a Fortune 500.  They don't advertise it but I know I got it when I was married and had coverage elsewhere so didn't need their insurance.

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KReed    442
Posted (edited)

I agree with Johhny Go....Bus drivers have fixed sccedules that are difficult to work around a full time job and are a different situation - and even those circumstances rarely (if ever) warrant full benefits in the private sector (i.e: budgeting with revenue that can't arbitraily be increased by raising taxes).

It has been noted that, at 36 scheduled meetings per year, legislators are being paid about $472.00 per 1-hour meeting……as opposed to school bus drivers that start somewhere at or near $15/hr.    Voting themselves higher pay while the population they represent struggles more under their leadership is self-serving.

Erie County's 2018 Citizens Salary Review Commission report that Mr Pucci mentions has some great information about the factors considered and can be found here: 

http://www2.erie.gov/csrc/sites/www2.erie.gov.csrc/files/uploads/2018 Commission Final Report.pdf

 

I particularly like the inclusion of median citizens’ incomes and real estate values. I have always felt that representative pay should be correlated with the wealth of their constituents. That way, if they’re making decision that IMPROVE the local economy, then they will get more pay themselves. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the economic picture in Chemung County has improved at all since the charter was adopted....and it may be fair to say the previous Board of Supervisors did a better job than we are getting from a ligislature that we pay about $240,000 each year in wages alone.

 

I would further question the number of Legislators. The representation ration of 1:5900 has been mentioned many times. This is based on 2010 population of 88K and is likely overstated, as the population has been estimated by under 85K now.

When the charter was adopted, we had 101k people and it was still a lot lower than the NY average per legislator (1:6700). Even if we assume that the ratio that was agreed upon when the charter was adopted is set in stone, we should now have <13 legislators. If we had half the 1:23000 statewide average, we would have 7 legislators. 

 

Edited by KReed
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KRSullivan    122

For the record,  I was not saying bus drivers don't deserve what they get,  That is a job that takes a special person. 

I am pretty sure my employer also has an opt out payment for insurance.  They are a Fortune 500 also. 

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Chris    951

Really guys, no one feels like you're going after bus drivers. Besides, they have pretty thick skin even if you were. ;)

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