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Buffalo Common Council members questioned on pay raises

2 On Your Side wanted to know from city lawmakers if they would vote to raise their own pay, as recommended by a salary review commission.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the heels of a citizens salary review commission recommendation of double-digit pay raises for all of Buffalo's elected officials, 2 On Your Side questioned several Buffalo Common Council members on where they stand as they will ultimately decide the question.

After doing its calculations, the commission recommended pay raises of nearly 13% for the mayor, common council members, the city comptroller, and school board members.

The commission says it arrived at its numbers by combining the four-year rate of raises given to unionized city workers, the four-year inflation rate, and by looking at several other cities which it said were comparable to Buffalo in size, and the responsibilities held by their elected officials.

Their report shows that Buffalo's mayor already makes more than the mayors of the six other cities deemed comparable, including those of Pittsburgh and Cleveland, which are both larger cities.

A 12.63% raise on top of his current salary, however, would raise the salary of current mayor Byron Brown by an additional $20,000 to $178,000 annually.

Common Council members would see their pay boosted by more than $9,000 to $85,000 per year.

The council has until June 15 to either accept or reject part or all of the recommendations.

"Looking at the proposed tax increase, I don't really feel comfortable with giving myself a raise right now, so right now I'm considering voting no,"  said Lovejoy District Council member Bryan Bollman.

"I think it's pretty fair and reasonable," said Masten District Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo, Sr. who noted there hasn't been a pay raise for lawmakers in four years.

The raises proposed collectively for twenty elected city officials would total $137,000 and represent a tiny fraction of the city's budget which is close to $600 million.

"Will people always object to salary increases for public servants? Probably yes. But at the end of the day, I believe it's warranted...I would vote yes,"  said Wingo, who is not running for re-election, and therefore would actually be voting to increase the pay of his successor as the pay raises would not go into effect until next year.

Other council members would not be pinned down as to how they might vote.

"I look forward to having the conversation and hearing from the public," said University District Council member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt. "We will have a public hearing, we'll hear from the public...we'll have to take our cue from them," Wyatt said.

"We just got this the other day and have to look at it in depth," said South District Council member Christopher Scanlon. When asked if he felt council members like himself should be paid more, he replied, " I think that when looking at the positions, and what is paid, I think one thing you always have to do in particular moving forward make sure you are able to attract candidates and people who want to run for office."

"It's a full-time job including weekends," said Niagara District Council member David Rivera, who did not say directly how he might vote. "We give out raises to union employees and exempt employees to the point where some of our support staff are making more money than the council members," he said.

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