By a 6-5 vote, the Erie County Legislature approved the pay raises, recommended by the Citizens Salary Review Commission, for three key county offices.
Those raises will not take effect until the next terms of the respective positions but critics suggest the increases were passed to help at least one incumbent who is up for re-election this fall.
The Erie County Executive, beginning in January 2020, will earn $118,376. When the new terms begin in 2022 for the Comptroller and Sheriff, the former will begin earning $94,037 while the latter will earn $89,343. Legislators and the Erie County Clerk will not receive raises.
"Because we have not made adjustments for 23 years to the three most critical positions in county government, I think we have a system that is somewhat out of balance," said Legislature Chairman Peter Savage. "I think it was important to go through a public process, do it in a transparent way, stand up and be accountable to it and work to ensure we get the best, most qualified people for the three most critical positions in Erie County government."
The offices, under the recommendation of the Citizens Salary Review Commission, will then see yearly salary increases based on the Consumer Price Index. Savage considers this reasonable, noting that other county jobs see pay increases based on cost-of-living adjustments and that such reviews and adjustments of pay for top leaders are expected in the private sector.
Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, however, says the average taxpayer does not get such raises and thus neither should politicians.
"It's rather unfortunate that politicans cannot find the heart to give taxpayers a break by cutting their taxes, but they have no problem giving themselves a raise. That's wrong," he said.
Mychajliw pointed out that he will not benefit from these raises now, nor in the future. He is running for the 27th Congressional District, currently represented by Chris Collins. Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Mick Langworthy, meanwhile, suggests that another office holder, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, "bought himself a pay raise."
Langworthy issued the following written statement: "Mark Poloncarz made Democrats in the County Legislature slam through pay raises for Erie County politicians with a pure party line 6-5 vote. They voted 'NO' for real property tax cuts in December and 'YES' to raise Poloncarz’ paycheck today. Pathetic! See you in November."
Two motions were defeated in advance of the approval vote. One would have eliminated the annual raises calculated using the Consumer Price Index. The other would have sent the pay raise debate back to committee for further discussion.