NIAGARA FALLS, NY - As part of his $91 million budget proposal, which increases the tax rate for businesses, but not homeowners, Mayor Paul Dyster is proposing nearly $1 million in raises for city employees.
While most of that is related to fulfilling the obligations of labor contracts, including for police officers, there are some raises for individuals that have raised eyebrows.
The City Administrator Nick Melson, whom Dyster appointed earlier this year would get a $10,000 pay raise bringing his annual salary to $85,000.
Dyster's Executive Assistant, Meg Rossman, who was also hired this year (and who Dyster insists will take on additional duties) would get a 43% raise, boosting her pay from $40,500 to $58,000 per year.
“These two people that would get substantial raises have only been in for about five months,” said Niagara Falls City Council member Kenny Tompkins, who opposes the pay raises. “Have they proven themselves in their positions yet? I don’t think so. Maybe next year they will be deserving of more money, but I don't believe so at this point in time," Tompkins told WGRZ-TV.
Tompkins is also no fan of Dyster’s call to raise the City Assessors salary by 9%, from $65,000 to $71,000 and providing the City Clerk (whose job would be elevated from part-time, to full-time status) with a 60% salary increase, from $30,000 to $48,000 per year.
When we asked him about this on October 4th, Dyster defended the raises by saying he's trying to retain highly qualified workers.
On Monday, he maintained that position.
“We have been very frugal in the executive office,” said Dyster. “I need to have people working with me here in the Mayor’s office in order to get the job we need to get done, actually done for the taxpayers.”
However, it’s the City Council which ultimately must pass the budget, and which must agree. And Tompkins doesn't think it will.
“No….and in my conversations with the other council members, and I believe all most all of us have heard from our constituents, to believe the same way,” he said. "I do hope we have four votes that we need in case the mayor vetoes what we put forward and that we're able to hold through and override his vetoes."
"I don't think they're going to pass the Council....that's my honest opinion," said City Council Chairperson Andrew Touma. "And I feel strongly that most of my colleagues share the same feelings, and they are getting the same phone calls I am getting where residents are saying this is not good timing and this is wrong."
Members of the public will have their chance to weigh in on the Mayor’s proposed budget on Tuesday at 6pm, during a public hearing prior to the regularly scheduled City Council meeting at City Hall, 745 Main St.