Chautauqua County: Commission goes overboard

Should elected officials in Chautauqua County receive pay raises?

It’s an interesting question that receives no consideration in a series of recommendations handed up from the county’s Salary Review Commission to the Chautauqua County Legislature. The recommendations will be discussed this week by county legislators during committee meetings, including the Administrative Services Committee at 5:30 p.m. today.

Not answering the question of the raises’ necessity is the commission’s first mistake, but it is far from the last one it makes in a report that recommends 28.8 percent pay raises for the county executive and county clerk and raises for the legislature that result in paying more for a 19-member Legislature than a 25-member Legislature.

Are they joking? Surely, there must be a better recommendation coming, right?

For starters, commission members recommend a $3,000 base pay increase to legislators. That increase, if approved, would increase the total base pay from $225,000 for a 25-member Legislature to $228,000 for a 19-member Legislature. Plus, the commission’s report seems to say legislators should be paid more because legislators no longer receive health insurance, a perk that was eliminated in 2010 at a savings of between $140,000 and $160,000. It is also a perk that many current legislators never received and its inclusion in the commission’s report is illogical.

The commission’s flawed thinking continues when it comes to the county executive, clerk and sheriff pay raises. Commission members reviewed Consumer Price Index information for the past 10 years and added up the inflation rate from 2003 to 2013. That number, 28.8 percent, was then used to determine the raises for the county executive, county clerk and county sheriff. The county executive would go from earning $85,000 to $109,480 while the clerk will go from $53,000 to $68,264. Because the sheriff’s salary has been increased over the years, the commission is recommending an increase from $82,500 to $87,450, the lower of the salary ranges it discussed.

Legislator John Runkle, R-Gerry and Audit and Control Committee chairman, has already gone on the record on WDOE saying he doesn’t think any elected official should receive a pay increase right now. We trust his fellow legislators will follow his lead and oppose these ridiculous recommendations.

As a taxpayer, when was the last time you received a 28.8 percent pay increase? When was the last time you last received a county property tax increase? Honest answers to those questions put the outlandish report from the Salary Review Commission in perspective.