Republicans Fully Back County Pay Increases

Doug Champ of Jamestown speaks out against raising the pay for legislators. P-J photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County lawmakers have agreed with the Salary Review Commission and are giving elected county officials significant pay raises, effective following the next election.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the county executive will be getting a $16,210 raise. In 2024, the executive is scheduled to earn $115,765.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the county clerk will be getting a $17,880 raise. In 2024, the clerk is scheduled to earn $66,853.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2027, the county sheriff will be getting a $10,355 raise. In 2024, the sheriff is scheduled to earn $100,476.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the 19 county legislators will be getting a $5,732 raise. They will also start getting annual raises according to the Consumer Price Index. Currently, legislators get a base pay of $9,000. The chairman gets an additional $8,000. The majority and minority leaders get an additional $1,000. The assistant majority and assistant minority leaders get an additional $500. Each committee chairman gets an additional $1,000 and each ranking member of a committee gets an additional $250.

In 2018, the executive, clerk and sheriff all were given annual CPI raises.

Legislators have not gotten a pay increase in more than 20 years. They are considered part-time and do not receive any health insurance.

The county legislature is made up of 14 Republicans and 5 Democrats. When the time came to vote for each full-time office, all five Democrats — Susan Parker of Fredonia, Bob Bankoski and Marcus Buchanan of Dunkirk, and Fred Larson and Tom Nelson of Jamestown — voted against the raises.

Legislator David Wilfong, R-Jamestown, joined with the Democrats in opposing raises for the sheriff and executive, but not the clerk. Wilfong, who is the majority leader, said he feels the clerk’s pay is too low.

When the time came to vote on giving a $5,732 raise to legislators, Bankoski proposed lowering that amount to $3,000, but his amendment failed. Joining Bankoski on the losing vote were fellow Democratic Legislators Buchanan, Larson, Parker, and Republican Legislator Terry Niebel of Sheridan.

After the amendment failed, legislators returned to vote again on the full $5,732 raise — a 63.7% increase of the current base salary – with all five Democrats voting against it, along with Republican Legislators Bob Scudder of Fredonia and John Penhollow of Stockton.

For the vote to change the county charter and add an annual CPI raise, only two legislators voted against it — Nelson and Scudder.

The salary increases were proposed by the Salary Review Commission, a bi-partisan group formed last year to examine the salaries of the four offices. The commission did not look at the salary of judges or the district attorney because those salaries are set by the state.

The Salary Review Commission said it based the proposed increases by comparing the salaries of Chautauqua County to nine similar-sized counties: Broome, Jefferson, Ontario, Oswego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Thompkins and Wayne. The commission took the average pay of the salaries and cut the difference in half.


Throughout the night Wednesday, Democrats in particular said the counties that were used as a comparison were too wealthy and created a false narrative. They also said that since the executive, clerk and sheriff have been getting annual raises since 2018, they don’t need an additional large pay increase.

Before the vote, one person from the public spoke out against the raises.

Doug Champ of Jamestown, took issue with the raise for county legislators. He divided up the number of hours legislators spend at the monthly meeting and committee meetings, took that total and then divided up the salary, coming up with an hourly rate of $150 an hour.

He admitted he doesn’t know what other non-political duties they spend their time on. But comparing legislators to the county executive, Champ suspects they make a lot more money per hour than the executive does, which he estimates at $53.55 an hour if he works 40 hours a week or down to $35.70 an hour if he works 60 hours a week.

During the debate on the floor, Parker said the clerk, executive and sheriff have had nearly a 20% raise through cost of living increases, and does not believe raises are warranted or needed.

But Niebel disagreed. He noted that the executive will be getting around $131,000 a year for a position that oversees 1,500 employees and a $300 million budget.

“I don’t think the salary increase is exorbitant. I think it’s warranted,” he said.

Larson took issue with the nine counties used as comparables. He said the nine counties have a median household salary income of $76,000 while Chautauqua County’s is $55,000. He also said the average poverty level of the nine counties is 12.9%, while Chautauqua County has a poverty rate of 17.6%.

“Our economic circumstance, sadly, is way below the nine comparable counties,” he said. “What does that have to do with salaries? The ability of the residents of this county to pay is much, much less, sadly, than the other nine comparable counties.”

Parker also noted that population loss in Chautauqua County is much greater than the other nine counties.

Penhollow blamed New York state for that. He also said that if Chautauqua County wants the best people for the positions, they will need more money.

“We want to hire the best superintendents, we want the best men or women qualified to apply to run in an election, we want the best attorneys in Chautauqua County. I know I do. I want to hire the best doctors and I want those doctors working on my kids and my parents and my siblings,” he said.

Nelson said it’s time for the legislature to address more pressing issues.

“Can we talk about how we’re going to stop the population loss in the county or how we’re going to improve the economic future of the county — a county that ranks near the bottom of all the counties in the state? Let’s not waste any more time on this and move on to more important things,” he said.

After the vote took place, Sheriff James Quattrone spoke and said he doesn’t know if he will receive that pay increase, because he has to win the next election and doesn’t even know yet if he wants to run again.

He also said locally, the office of the sheriff is one of the lower paid police leaders.

“There’s seven police agencies other than the Sheriff’s Office in Chautauqua County. That’s including the State Police. There’s two that are paid a little less than the sheriff. The other five make considerably more,” he said.


Even though the raises are in place for all four offices, and all four offices will now receive annual pay increases, the legislature still wants to have the salaries examined for additional pay hikes.

During the legislature meeting, lawmakers voted 17-2 to have another Salary Review Commission in place by April 1, 2027 and then have a Salary Review Commission every four years after that.

Parker and Larson both voted against the local law.

Larson said since annual raises are in place, there’s no reason for the commission. He said he would want to see the commission brought back only if new duties are added to the offices, for example if a police agency dissolved and the Sheriff’s Office had to take it over.

Salary Commission member Frank Beach told the Administrative Services Committee that they were only recommending a 50% increase of the difference between the nine counties and what Chautauqua County elected officials are being paid. He said it would be up to future Salary Commissions if they want to recommend closing that gap further or not.


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