Legislators To Discuss Coroners’ Pay Rates

The cost of coroners and other budget expenditures will be discussed this week by county legislators during the upcoming Public Safety Committee meeting on Wednesday.

The county coroners requested an increase in their pay rates when they spoke to members of the legislature’s Audit and Control and Administrative Services committees at the beginning of the month. The coroners were told that legislators would need to review their current rates before a decision could be made on a possible raise.

Currently, county coroners make $80 for each day they are summoned for assistance. Though they may handle more than one case in a day, the coroners receive a flat daily rate.

“Our cases by the coroner are almost triple as Niagara County,” PJ Wendel said, pointing out that Niagara County has a population triple that of Chautauqua County.

Wendel, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the coroners need to be compensated differently, but noted that the issue needs to be looked at more in depth. He said it would be best to look at the types of calls the coroners respond to when deciding on a potential change to the pay rates. The issue has been discussed before by the legislature; the rates will also be looked at by members of the Administrative Services and Audit and Control committees.

There had been a suggestion of paying coroners $150 per case, but Wendel said that could get expensive if a coroner is called six times in one day. Not to mention, he said, the costs of toxicology reports and other tests and services that are needed.

“It’s a little bit more involved,” Wendel said.

Wendel said an overall analysis is needed to evaluate the issues.

Committees also plan to discuss proposed amendments to the budget, which were unveiled by County Executive Vince Horrigan earlier this month.

Legislators will also likely tackle the cost of operating the jail; overages in the Sheriff’s Office; and coverage of Sheriff’s deputies throughout the county. Wendel said one possible cost-cutting measure could be to hire full-time staff for the jail instead of using part-timers. As of Oct. 4, the jail’s budget has incurred overages of $543,000 this year.

Wendel said when it comes to the budget, the legislature does everything as “diligently as possible” and tries to do what’s best for taxpayers.

“We’re pretty confident there will be a tax decrease,” he said. “We’re doing the right things. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”