AUBURN — Some Cayuga County legislators feel it's about time they get a raise.
The base pay for a legislator is $10,100, and outgoing Legislator Terry Baxter said it's been 15 or 16 years, at least, since the salary has changed. Baxter, who is wrapping up his term on the Legislature to take on the Moravia town supervisor post, brought the issue up at a Government Operations Committee meeting Wednesday night.
The committee was discussing pay raises for non-bargaining county positions, elected officials and officials appointed for a fixed term. Legislators are full-time at 30 hours a week.
"Now that I'm leaving, it doesn't matter," Baxter said. "It's not a very thankful job, and pay raises ought to go along (with the non-bargaining raises)."
Legislator Paul Pinckney, who was just re-elected for another term, agreed.
"I would support a raise for this body, be it the day after I leave in four years, I don't care when, but I think it's very unhealthy to go 20 years, 15 years without an increase of sorts, and if the taxpayers of this county want to chastise us for a nominal fee, it's just not a healthy situation to go that long," he said. "It's not going to break anybody. These are not big dollars."
Onondaga County and Tompkins County legislators earn more than $20,000.
Legislator Tim Lattimore pointed to the difference between the pay for Onondaga County and Cayuga County officials, and said he'd support a raise. But, he added, he'd hope that the Legislature would combine some districts to shrink the 15-member body. Pinckney asked Cayuga County Attorney Fred Westphal how that could be done.
Westphal said this was an ideal time to discuss merging districts, a couple of years before the U.S. Census is conducted. That will happen in 2020.
Legislature Chairman Keith Batman said he would consider getting a committee together to explore that possibility, hopefully before the end of the year.
As for the salary increases, Legislator Andy Dennison said he'd support increases for other elected officials, but not for legislators. Westphal is expected to draft two local laws — one calling for raises for legislators, and one calling for raises for other elected officials and those appointed for a fixed term — for the Ways and Means Committee meeting on Dec. 12. Resolutions will also be coming forward for non-bargaining position raises.
The local laws will have to move through committee and to a public hearing before the full body would pass them.
In other news:
• Reassessment of damage to Fair Haven Beach State Park was completed Wednesday, and Cayuga County does in fact meet its threshold required to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for Lake Ontario flooding. Niel Rivenburgh, acting director of the county's emergency services, said the state park's damage numbers had been left out of the county's assessment due to a clerical error at the state or federal level.
FEMA had approved a major disaster declaration for multiple counties affected by Lake Ontario flooding. Cayuga and Monroe counties were left out of the declaration, however.
Rivenburgh said the state is appealing to the federal government.
"We'll either be included in the standing deal, or they'll deny it," he said. "We're cautiously optimistic."