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Committee Reinstates 3% Raises For County Managers

This screengrab shows Patrick Slagle, co-chairman of the county’s Managers Association, as he speaks to members of the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee.

A Chautauqua County legislative committee has reinstated 3% raises for county managers, which will increase the property tax rate by about 1.6 cents.

During a meeting last week of the county Legislature’s Audit and Control Committee, members voted 4-1 to increase raises from 1.5% to 3%. Voting against the resolution was Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan.

At the beginning of the meeting, Patrick Slagle, the co-chairman of the county’s Managers Association which represents 107 county employees, addressed the committee. “While I could speak of the minimal impact of a 3% raise, as in terms of the overall budget, I wish to focus rather on our main concern – and that’s the impact to the morale of our county’s management,” he said.

Slagle noted managers are exempt from overtime, shift differential, step increases or any other incentives offered to other county employees. “All levels of management, from new hires, to those serving over 20 years, have routinely made sacrifices, and work additional hours, so that important services and operations would continue without interruption,” he said.

Slagle noted COVID-19 has impacted all levels of government, including managers, with increased burden. “During this time of crisis, local governments are being mandated to do more and more by state government and this burden falls upon managers,” he said.

Slagle said managers have given up vacations and personal time off during this pandemic. “The burden on managers has never been higher,” he said.

He believes that a 3% raise, which was originally in County Executive PJ Wendel’s budget, shows “appreciation for the sacrifices being made and represents the commitment the county has to its leadership.”

He called on the county Legislature to reconsider its decision to decrease raises for its management team.

Dr. MaryAnn Spanos, head of the county Office for the Aging, spoke as well. She noted that some departments, like hers, get their raises from grants, so cutting a raise has no impact on the county budget.

Legislator Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said he’s received some complaints and wanted to make a clarification. “The legislature does not determine at all what an individual manager receives in an increase. As long as monies are available … they can get an increase,” he said.

He also applauded the county managers for their hard work. “Everyone has worked extremely hard, so this is not at all directed at that. We’re just tasked with putting together a budget that makes sense. I know a lot of big businesses are closing in this county, people are not working, benefits are going up 1.3%, so that was my rationale,” Nazzaro said.

He later noted that the county has been raising managers pay recently. “We have budgeted over the last four years 11% increases in managers’ salaries – 3, 3, 3 and 2 (%),” he said.

Christine Schuyler, county public health director and commissioner of Social Services, said as hard as her department managers have worked, she was extremely disappointed to tell them they weren’t getting a 3% raise in 2021. “I was sick to my stomach to have to tell my managers ‘thank you so much you being available to me to the public at large, to everyone 24/7 for the last eight plus months but you’re not going to get just that 3% increase that I told you was in the budget for you to get,'” she said.

Kathleen Dennison, county budget director, said if the raises are reinstated, the property tax rate would be $8.507, or an increase of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Wendel originally proposed a budget tax rate of $8.41. During the first week of October, when legislators originally proposed cutting the managers’ salaries, they proposed a budget tax rate of $8.491. “That is a 1.6 cents per thousand rate increase,” said Nazzaro. “On a hundred thousand dollar home we’re talking about a dollar and 60 cents, which is a cup of coffee.”

Niebel said he was in favor of a higher raise for the managers than 1.5%. “The unions have all received a 3% increase. Now I think we have to look at it as a fairness issue. Is it fair to the managers to only receive half the increase that the union employees have received,” he said.

Legislators Tom Harmon, R-Silver Creek and Mark Odell, R-Brocton both said they are OK with a tax rate of $8.507. “We can afford it and that’s what I want to do,” said Harmon.

Niebel wanted to reduce the contingency fund so the tax rate for 2021 would be the same as 2020. No one on the Audit and Control Committee backed his proposal, so Niebel ended up voting against the resolution. “No, only because of the fact that it’s not coming out of contingency,” he said when he cast his vote.

According to Dennison, the tax levy for 2021 is now $67,183,544, with a property tax rate of about $8.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation, about 5 cents higher than 2020.

The full legislature is scheduled to adopt the budget at its next meeting, which is set for Wednesday.

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