Support for county pay raise resolutions dropped

The Personnel Committee of the Montgomery County Legislature voted last week to send five separate resolutions to the full Legislature that would have created local laws granting raises to the county sheriff, county clerk, county treasurer, head coroner and coroner. But the sponsors of those resolutions withdrew their sponsorship before Tuesday’s meeting of the full legislature. No legislator picked up the sponsorship of any of the resolutions, so each of the measures died.

Since the proposed raises would have been granted in the midst of the terms of each official, the local laws would have been subject to permissive referendum, where county residents would have the option to file a petition which would require the local laws to be approved by referendum.

The proposed raises were as follows:

  • Sheriff, from $90,877 per year to $105,000
  • County treasurer, from $78,475 to $80,000
  • County clerk, from $67,711 to $80,000
  • Head coroner, from $8,500 to $10,000
  • Coroner, from $7,500 to $9,000

District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel, manager of radio station WCSS in Amsterdam, had sponsored two of the resolutions. He said Tuesday that he had heard numerous complaints from callers to the station concerning the proposed raises, prompting him to withdraw his sponsorship.

Part of the confusion, he said, was over two unrelated issues: a state-mandated raise for the district attorney, whose salary must match that of the county judge, and a salary increase for Ossenfort.

“We were going to cover [the mandated raise for the district attorney] out of [county] money, but we’re not; that’s out of state funds,” Isabel said. “And number two, Matt [Ossenfort] doesn’t get that rate increase until his next term. Those were the two major mixups.”

Isabel also said some callers thought the legislators were voting themselves pay raises, which is not the case.

“[Callers] were expressing a lot of concern, so until we research it a bit farther, we decided that it was best to pull our sponsorship at that time,” he said.

District 2 Legislator Thomas Quackenbush, chairman of the Personnel Committee, said after the meeting that his committee did its job.

“We accomplished what we wanted to, and that was to set forth a policy for our non-bargaining employees, and that passed,” he said. “The only way you can get a salary increase during the term of a public official that has a fixed term is to do it through a local law. That really is separate from the policy that we passed. So the numbers that we put in that policy previously, they’re still there; they just could never take effect until the new term starts. What some [legislators] were trying to do with the resolutions was to allow those salaries to start now.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.