How Salary Increases Would be Handled If The New Charter Is Adopted

I wrote to Robert Turner, chair of the Charter Review Commission, asking him how pay increases would be handled under the new charter in light of the staggered terms they are proposing for city council members.  According to New York State Municipal Law, an elected official cannot set their salary during their current term.  Bob is very good about responding to questions.  Here is his response.



Hi John,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

NY State law establishes the rules governing a City Council’s ability to raise its salaries.  According to Tony Izzo, a Council can do it one of 2 ways.

  1. They can vote to increase their salaries immediately.  A public referendum is held for voters to decide whether to approve the changes or not.
  2. They can vote to increase the salaries of a future City Council.  There has to be an election between when a council member votes and the salary increases go into effect.  So if the City Council voted to increase their salaries in 2020, it would not go into effect until after the 2021 election for half of them or 2023 for the other half.  According to NYCOM, what usually happens is City Council delay pay increases going into effect until the entire City Council is eligible.

According to the ICMA Municipal Form of Government, 2011 survey of local governments, 85% of city council elections are staggered.  So, we don’t believe this is a problem.

Personally, I believe that the current provision of a medical plan with no deductibles, premiums, or copays for part time City Council members is excessive.  To put their compensation in perspective, the cost of their benefits ($18,000) and salaries ($14,500) of $32,500 is higher than the legislative salaries of 30 state legislators.  (see https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-much-should-state-legislators-get-paid/)   And the provision of lifetime health benefits to City Council members after 10 years to service is unheard of in the public or private sector.

Hope this answers your question.

Also, Matt Veitch had asked: Is it now that Supervisors have 2 year terms while the rest of the elected officials will have 4 year terms?

Our original proposal, established 4 year terms for County Supervisors, largely because of your input about the position.  However, our drafting attorney, Bob Batson, told us: “It is my opinion that the Charter provision authorizing a term of 4 years for the Supervisors is not valid since it is inconsistent with the cited provision of state law.  Subdivision 2 of Section 2 of the General City Law authorizes a 4 year term for supervisors elected in the City of Geneva. I believe that Saratoga Springs would need either a special act of the State Legislature or a charter law of Saratoga County to give the supervisors 4 year terms.”  Batson is the Government Lawyer in Residence at the Government Law Center of Albany Law School.  Batson has drafted charters for: Albany, Amsterdam, Cohoes, Glen Cove, Oneonta and Troy, among others.

Batson said that a special act of the state legislature is required to change the term length of supervisors to 4 years.  Evidently, Geneva, I believe, asked for this and it took 4 months to pass the change.  So the term lengths are 2 years until the law changes and then they are 4 years.  The revised language is below.

There are two slight wrinkles on this.

  1. BK Keramati offered an amendment to specify that the first subsequent election shall be the “beauty pageant” format, where the candidate with the most votes gets the 4 year term and the runner up gets the 2 year term.  After that, the supervisor elections will be staggered 4 year terms. Supervisor A would run in 2021, 2025, 205; etc and Supervisor B would run in 2021, 2023, 2027, 2031 etc.
  2. Matt Jones offered an amendment subsequently that each county supervisor position will be contested separately, head to head elections, until the state changes the law to 4 year terms.  His argument was that this increases accountability in elections, based on his time on the Board of Election.

The exact language is below.

Bob

Bob Turner

Associate Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies and Sciences

Director, Environmental Studies and Sciences Program

Director, Faculty Student Summer Research Program

Skidmore College

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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