AMHERST, NY - "They're getting things done, they're cutting costs, and we've lowered taxes and expenses the last two years," Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein told WGRZ-TV, in defending his proposal to increase the salaries of most elected officials in Erie County's largest town by 2% across the board.
This would include town board members (who were scheduled to vote on the proposal Monday evening) the Town Clerk, and the town's Highway Superintendent.
Weinstein's proposal did not include pay hikes for town judges or for himself as Supervisor.
There has not been an across the board pay raise for elected officials in the town since 2004, although some elected officials have had incremental increases through stipends, as they have taken on additional responsibilities previously held by others.
Weinstein says, moreover, good work should be rewarded.
"The Highway Superintendent, who doubles as refuse coordinator, did a contract with Modern (Modern Disposal Inc.) which saves the town of Amherst taxpayers $10 million...thats $2 million a year for five years. The new Clerk, in her first year, cleaned up a colossal mess finding thousands of dollars left in envelopes and unrecorded and she is saving the town a tremendous amount of money," Weinstein said.
Asked by Two On Your Side if these elected officials, in finding cost savings, aren't merely just doing the jobs expected of them, Weinstein replied, "Well they're doing a lot better than their predecessors."
Weinstein proposed raising the pay of members of the town board by $500 to $26,000 annually, hiking the pay of the Town Clerk by $1,300 (to $66,300) and increasing the salary of the Highway Superintendent by $1,700 to $98,700 (a figure which includes $20,000 in stipends).
In addition to the 2% raise in his base play, Deputy Town Supervisor Guy Marlette (also a member of the town board) would receive an additional $3,000 stipend proposed by Weinstein for negotiating union contracts. This would be on top of the $3,000 stipend Marlette already receives for serving as the Deputy Supervisor, and bring his annual compensation to $32,000.
However, Marlette said he could not support the proposal.
"I work hard at my job but I think I'm compensated fairly and quite honestly I don't think there's any reason to put any additional amounts on there," Marlette said.
Prior to the meeting Weinstein indicated that if the town board was unwilling to boost the pay of elected officials as he proposed, he would end his pursuit of the raises this year.
However, Weinstein tells Channel 2 News his yet to be completed 2013 budget proposal will also include proposed raises for select town department heads, who he feels are doing superlative work.
"Í want to pay for quality service," Weinstein said, adding that the total amount of additional compensation would probably involve anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.
Asked by Two On Your Side to respond to taxpayers who may share his belief, but who feel there is no room to increase compensation through additional tax dollars, Weinstein replied, "They're being short sided. There are people who are making decisions which have lowered the town cost structure by millions of dollars over the past two years (and) they deserve some sort of reward for that."
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Ron Schanne.
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