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If Budget Is A Mess, Then Officials Can Blame Themselves

The median Chautauqua County household income is $42,720 a year — and a lot of the people who work hard every day to earn every penny of that $42,720 aren’t getting big raises this year.

Why, then, is the Chautauqua County Legislature approving raises for management-level employees.

“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,” Patrick Slagle, co-chairman of the county’s Managers Association, which represents 107 county employees.

It’s hard to feel too bad, though, when you consider many county managers are already earning twice as much as the average Chautauqua County household and have already received 11% in total pay increases over the last four years. It’s not as if county managers are being paid minimum wage. It’s not as if they live in fear of their job being gone tomorrow because COVID-19 has caused their company to close.

We don’t disagree that county managers are working hard. But the legislature’s logic in approving these raises is ludicrous. Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, justified the raises by noting their overall small impact on the county budget. Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, justified them by comparing the raises with the 3% union workers received. Tom Harmon, R-Silver Creek, and Mark Odell, R-Brocton, were fine with the county’s 5 cent per $1,000 of assessed home value tax increase and decided the county can afford the raise.

At a time when revenues are uncertain, how can legislators be so cavalier about increasing personnel costs? We find it funny that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, far from a fiscal conservative, has spent the year deferring raises for about 80,000 state workers while here in Chautauqua County, a government led by alleged fiscally conservative Republicans is increasing managers’ pay during a pandemic because of a specious reason like “morale.”

If a county worker was so demoralized by not receiving a pay raise that they leave their job, there are 3,200 people on the unemployment rolls who would gladly trade places with them.

There will come a time when our county’s elected officials will wonder why their budget is such a mess. They will only have themselves to blame.

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