Public has say on raise

The Rotterdam Town Board will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day at town hall to discuss the adoption of a local law that would increase members' salaries by $5,000 next year.

If passed, the law stipulates that board members will earn $15,000 in 2008, up from their current salary of $10,000.

There hasn't been an adjustment in 17 years, said board member John Mertz, who noted that the raise would not apply to Supervisor Steven A. Tommasone, who earns $16,000 annually. "This is a period in Rotterdam history where the demands of the town board have increased, and while other positions have been adjusted accordingly over time, the board's has not."

According to Mertz, the new salary would be more competitive with what board members in similarly sized towns are currently making. Mertz cited Guilderland and Malta as two examples where board members earn salaries of $19,860 and $15,000, respectively.

Last month, the board voted 3-to-2 to amend the supervisor's preliminary budget that did not include the raises. In order to amend board member salaries, the law stipulates that the town has to adopt a local law and hold a public hearing. If the law is not passed or overturned, the $20,000 budgeted for the raises for the four board members would remain unspent in 2008.

The local law would be subject to a permissive referendum. This means the law could be overturned if the board was presented with a signed petition containing the names of 10 percent of residents who voted in the 2006 statewide election.

Tommasone and board member Robert Godlewski voted against amending the budget last month. Godlewski also cast the lone vote against the call for a public hearing.

"The law says that once salaries are set in the notice of public hearing for the preliminary budget that they cannot be adjusted," said Godlewski. "And, it's simply not the right time to raise the salary of the board in Rotterdam."

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