Legislature To Vote On Increasing Pay For Elected County Officials

Chautauqua County lawmakers are scheduled to vote this week on potential raises for elected county officials.

Among the topics up for a vote Wednesday at the county legislature meeting are four local laws – one for county executive pay increase, one for county clerk pay increase, one for sheriff, and one for county legislators.

There is also a charter change proposed which would give county legislators annual raises tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The proposed local laws and charter change were reviewed last week during the legislature’s Administrative Services, and Audit and Control committees. No votes were held and no one present spoke out either in favor or against the pay hikes.

The county executive’s salary for 2023 was $111,419. The pay is proposed to increase by $16,210, effective Jan. 1, 2026, following the 2025 election.

The county clerk’s salary for 2023 was $66,853. The pay is proposed to increase by $17,880, effective Jan. 1, 2026, following the 2025 election.

The county sheriff’s salary for 2023 was $100,476. The pay is proposed to increase by $10,355, effective Jan. 1, 2027, following the 2026 election.

The base pay for the 19 county legislators is $9,000. There is additional pay for various titles. Their base pay is proposed to increase to $14,732, effective Jan. 1, 2026, following the 2025 election.

Since 2018, the executive, clerk and sheriff get annual cost-of-living increases, which are connected to the CPI. County legislators have not been getting CPI increases. On Wednesday, they will vote on a charter change which would give them the annual cost-of-living increases. That change will require a two-thirds majority vote, while the local laws will only require a majority vote.

There are 14 Republican and five Democratic legislators. The five Democrats are going on record opposing raises for the clerk, executive and sheriff. They are not united in their opinion of the pay increase proposed for county legislators.

In a news release sent out by Legislator Susan Parker of Fredonia on behalf of the minority caucus, they state, “The five Democratic Chautauqua County legislators are united in their opposition to the proposed pay raises for the county executive, clerk and sheriff on top of the cost of living raises they already receive each year.”

Currently all three offices are held by Republicans.

Minority Leader Bob Bankoski of Dunkirk noted how the three offices have been getting annual raises for the last six years. “The Republican majority in the County Legislature set the 2018 salary for County Executive at $92,500, the County Clerk at $55,500 and the Sheriff at $85,000. Because of the annual automatic cost-of-living increases, in 2023 the Executive made $111,419, the Clerk $66,853 and the Sheriff $100,476,” he said.

Parker said because the three offices keep getting increased salaries, they shouldn’t get an additional large pay hike. “The County Executive and Clerk are currently making 20% more than in 2018. In 2024, the County Executive will make $115,765, the Clerk $69,460 and the Sheriff $104,395. There is no justification for additional raises at this time,” she said.

The pay hike levels were proposed by the county’s Salary Review Commission, which was made up of four Republicans and three Democrats, none of which are currently elected officials. The commission based their proposed increases by comparing the salaries of Chautauqua County to nine similar-sized counties: Broome, Jefferson, Ontario, Oswego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Thompkins and Wayne.

Legislator Tom Nelson of Jamestown criticized the counties that were analyzed. “The Salary Commission and the Republican majority point to nine ‘comparable’ New York counties to justify even more salary increases. However, Chautauqua County is not comparable to those nine counties,” he said.

Legislator Fred Larson of Jamestown agreed. “The nine counties are not like Chautauqua County at all. Their average median household income, for example, is $75,000, whereas Chautauqua County, unfortunately, is at the bottom with only $55,000 median household income,” he said.

Legislator Marcus Buchanan of Dunkirk noted that Chautauqua County has too many challenges to be increasing the pay of elected officials. “Because of the high poverty level and population decline in Chautauqua County in the last decade, to be fair to our taxpayers we should not be giving additional raises to the County Executive, Clerk or Sheriff,” he said.

The news release did not specify the Democratic Caucus’ position on increasing the base pay of legislators, nor did they address the proposal of giving legislators annual increases in the CPI. When Parker was asked about this, she replied, “”We haven’t come to a consensus on the amount, but our proposal will be less than what the commission has proposed.”

Along with the pay increases, another local law that legislators will be considering is to have the Salary Review Commission return every four years. This would allow elected officials’ pay to be increased every four years if the legislature desired to do so. If this local law passes, it would not require a pay increase; just that the commission would need to review the pay of the executive, sheriff, clerk and legislators.


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