Have read with interest your post on the proposed increase in City Council member compensation.
As I understand, the annual salary would climb from $14,500 to $30,000, a jump of 107%.
A few observations. First, while the mayor suggests that ‘…Council seats are supposed to be part time’, that has never been memorialized in the current or previous city charters, including the original 1915 Charter. Certainly though, most, but not all, past council members have held full time jobs or were self employed outside of their council duties and were thus de facto part timers.
Only the independently wealthy or retired could afford to serve without meaningful outside employment income.
The city’s longest tenured commissioner of public safety, for example, was a well known surgeon who managed to run the department with somewhat of an iron fist and, in the process was indicted a number of times before finally resigning for good. Many others have served credibly on a part time basis while holding down a full time job, profession or business.
What is little known, though, is that for many years the council members were reported to the State Comptroller, for pension credit purposes, as “full time.” I believe that meant a minimum of 30 hours weekly. Such reporting would allow a member to be vested in the state retirement system in a much shorter period of time. There may have been a Council resolution adopted sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s establishing that threshold, at least for retirement benefits.
In the “Rational” appended to the current Charter approved by the voters in November 2001, the Charter Revision Commission noted on page 11: “As the complexity of government operations increases in Saratoga Springs., the ‘part time’ council may soon become a thing of the past. There are compelling reasons for moving to a system of full-time elected officials, but we (the Charter Revision Commission) do not think it is in our purview to mandate that.”
It is not correct that, as your entry states, the current rate of $14,500 has been in place since 2001. The $14,500 salary dates to the 1994 budget year following adoption of a 1993 local law.
The 2000-2001 Charter Revision Commission considered including a salary increase in the then proposed Charter, but ultimately decided to leave it at $14,500.
Wrote the Commission: “For the time being, we chose to keep the compensation at its current level for council members and leave it to them (and ultimately the voters) to decide when the time is ripe to increase he salary.”
In hindsight, we may have been influenced by a concern that a salary increase would compromise the proposal’s adoption at referendum.
So, Council members have not seen a salary increase since 1994, almost 26 years. Inflationary pressure would make $14,500 in 1994 the equivalent of $25,103 today, an overall increase of 73%.
You may find it interesting that the first City Council members, meeting on June 22, 1915, were salaried at $500 annually. Deputy salaries varied with the deputy commissioner of finance awarded $1,400 annually, public works $1,500 public safety $1,200. In that first government there was no deputy accounts commissioner title and, of course, no deputy mayor.
The Council member salary of $500 would be worth about $12,700 in 2019 dollars.
My paternal grandfather is listed as the first city stenographer at $720 annually. My wife Linda’s maternal grandfather, Tom Gorman, was deputy commissioner of public safety at the grand total of $1,200.
Hope you find this interesting.