County board OKs pay raises for administrators

T he Washington County Board of Supervisors established the new salaries of a dozen county administrators during their monthly board meeting last Friday.

The new salaries are the result of a pay increase approved by the finance committee earlier this month and will go into effect on Dec. 20.

Supervisors had already approved a 1.5 percent raise for all of the county’s union and nonunion employees in 2013, the first pay increase in three years. The raise for administrators is on top of last year’s salary and not in addition to the 1.5 percent.

County officials effectively argued that the pay scales weren’t competitive with other counties and made it difficult for Washington County to fill vacant positions. For instance, the county’s attorney makes $30,000 less than Warren County’s attorney.

The pay increases range from $159 for the county’s election commissioners to as much as $7,300 for the assistant district attorney.

But the increase didn’t sit well with some members of the board.

Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff, who was the only member of the finance committee who voted against the pay increase, said he doesn’t believe residents of Washington County will see the increases favorably.

“I don’t think this is the time to increase wages because the constituencies we work for don’t think this is the year to do this,” Haff said.

He has also argued that the raising the administrators’ salaries above the 1.5 percent given to other employees is inappropriate.

Russell LaCroix, a Greenwich resident, said the county is facing a “financial cliff in 2013” that makes the pay increases a risky proposition.

“Please think twice about these raises. I don’t know where the money will come from next year and I don’t think you do either,” he said.

The raises for staff and adminstrators will cost the county about $550,000.

The finance committee released the first draft of its 2013 fiscal budget last week and is looking at a 3.5 percent increase in the county’s tax levy. That equates to a $1 million increase over the tax levy in 2012.

Total appropriations, or expenses, for 2013 have been projecting at $106.5 million, an increase of $4.2 million over last year. Those numbers do not include all the costs associated with Pleasant Valley nursing home, which the county is hoping to sell in the next year.

Despite the increase, the county will still comply with the state mandated 2 percent tax cap because the county is allowed to roll forward a percentage of last year’s levy.

The finance committee is expected to continue work on the budget, but the salary increases have already been approved and aren’t expected to change. The county has to finalize and pass its budget by Dec. 20.

 

Near the end of Friday’s meeting, Salem Supervisor Seth Pitts expressed his displeasure with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to pull the plug on a project to slow the flow of water in White Creek, which overflowed its banks during Tropical Storm Irene and flooded parts of Salem.

The town and village of Salem had received $300,000 in state funding to build berms that would alleviate problems of flooding in the event of high water, but DEC stopped the project because they felt it might affect brook trout that spawn in late fall.

The project is expected to resume next year.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that they won’t let us fix the stream so it doesn’t flood Salem,” Pitts said. “I hope DEC will join us walking through flooded homes next spring.”

 

The board also approved the inclusion of six parcels of land as certified agricultural districts.

Two of the parcels are located in Kingsbury and four in Whitehall.

 

The board appointed David Armando as the new code enforcement administrator and set his stipend at $5,000 annually.

The former code enforcement administrator, William McCarty, who also serves the director of real property tax services, is retiring and the board read a proclamation honoring him for his service at the beginning of Friday’s meeting.

 

The next full meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16.

 

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