Assessor salary increase passes

When is a pay raise a cut?

That is the question city of Dunkirk Assessor Tom Mleczko must be wondering after Common Council increased his salary from $36,000 to $36,720 beginning in 2014. The increase will also be in effect for 2015 as elected officials pay must be set in June prior to the next election.

The cut for Mleczko comes with the ending of a stipend he began receiving in January 2012 when he assumed all the duties of assessor after city voters approved the abolition of two part-time assessors in the November 2011 election. The stipend was approved in December 2011 for $4,000, more than $6,000 less than the total cost of the two part-time assessors.

Prior to the vote on the resolution setting the salary, Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala explained her position, and seemingly the position of the resolution’s other sponsors, Michael Michalski, William J. Rivera and Adelino Gonzalez.

“During the council meeting we received and filed a letter from Assessor Tom Mleczko, explaining his additional duties as the voters decided two years ago to eliminate the two part-time assessors,” Szukala began, adding she had a list of all the inspections Mleczko did in 2012.

“We went back and forth, I would say this is one of our most talked-about topics so far and we could not come to a resolution as to how we wanted to proceed, knowing that money is an issue,” she continued.

“It didn’t change the fact that the additional duties need to continue. It doesn’t change the fact that Tom is putting in more work, but knowing that we needed to have a majority on the vote we came to a resolution, I think, at 2 percent which increases from $36,000 to $36,720, which was $720 additional pay. It wasn’t what was done in the past but as we know, just because it’s been done in the past doesn’t mean we can continue in that route.

“So I think this was something that compensated him somewhat for his time and efforts and hopefully it is something we can live with knowing that this doesn’t have to be found until the next budget season. We’ll be prepared in November to find that additional $720 elsewhere,” Szukala said.

Kiyak, after checking to make sure no other council members wished to speak on the issue, had something to say. She started by reminding council she had recently talked about the city’s upcoming expenses. Kiyak cited the possible loss of revenue from NRG, paybacks to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, workmen’s compensation costing more in 2014, and the $2.5 million seawall under consideration.

“To add insult to injury is the out-of-control overtime being incurred by city personnel. As of last week’s report, over $33,000 more has been spent this year as compared to last,” Kiyak stated. “It’s difficult to admit that not only is there no new revenue flowing into the city, but recently businesses have closed and moved out of the area. In light of this small list of expenditures, it is my opinion that raising the salary of an elected official is not a prudent expenditure of taxpayer funds and because of that I will be casting a no vote for this resolution.”

And she did, being the only no vote as the resolution passed 4-1.

After the meeting Dolce said he would sign the resolution. He was asked if was a fair settlement between the stipend and what Mleczko will get.

“It’s one of those decisions where council put a lot of time and thought into it. I’m not sure how they came up with the 2 percent number, but if that’s what the majority of them are comfortable with I’m not going to say otherwise,” he stated.

Mleczko was asked about the vote.

“I thought I was doing the right thing two years ago by trying to save the city $6,400. I don’t know what the problem is, if there is a problem, I don’t know,” he stated. “What else is there to say.”

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