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Onondaga County lawmakers vote to give pay raises to themselves, county executive

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County legislators and County Executive Joanie Mahoney will be getting raises in January.

It will be the first raise for everyone since before the recession, when they took a break from pay increases. And, that’s been part of the problem. Because there haven’t been pay increases in such a long time, the current proposal raises pay for the county executive by almost 30 percent, and for lawmakers by 15 percent.

But, getting back on track has been a politically tricky task. Attempts a year ago failed. This time around, the increase for Mahoney to almost $156,000 passed with one vote to spare 10-6.  Supporters like Republican Pat Kilmartin said just look at the comparable salaries of other county executives.

“Take out the highs and take out the lows and defined averages," Kilmartin said. "And, almost to a dollar they come to the proposal set forth in this resolution today.”

Lawmakers also voted 9-7 to increase their own pay by about $4,000; more for legislative leadership positions. In the end, Manlius Republican Kevin Holmquist, who’s been criticizing a process he said left the pubic out of the debate, couldn’t pull enough legislators to see his side of the story.

"I think our reputation has been damaged," Holmquist said. "I think the legislature is hurt by this, I think the citizens have lost confidence."

Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon sees his pay rate jump to almost $54,000. And, he thinks voters will realize this needed to be done.

“Voting for raises for elected officials is very difficult," McMahon said. "But, it doesn’t change the fact that if you didn’t do something, that next year it’s going to be nine years and then what do you do? And then ten years. And, the numbers just keep getting bigger, they don’t get smaller.”

Going forward the pay increases for elected officials will be tied to the most recently published consumer price index, during annual budget negotiations.

The vote was criticized by county Comptroller Robert Antonacci. In a statement released after the vote, Antonacci called the raises "ill-advised." 

“A  few  years  ago,  the  County  Executive vetoed raises because she said elected  officials’  pay  should  be determined during the budget.  I would like to know what changed?  If  County Executive Mahoney had the courage of her convictions, she would forgo the pay raise," said Antonacci.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.