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Tensions rise at Syracuse council over mayor’s comments on potential pay raises

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Councilor-at-Large Khalid Bey, center, speaks at the end of Wednesday's meeting.

A proposal to raise the salaries of Syracuse councilors and the mayor is already causing tension at city hall. During Wednesday’s council meeting, Councilor-at-Large Khalid Bey took issue with a Syracuse.com articleabout the pay raises and comments made by Mayor Ben Walsh. 

In the article, Walsh said the issue of pay raises could be used as an opportunity to talk about improvements to the legislative process and to ensure the council is showing value to constituents.

At the end of the council meeting, Bey expressed his displeasure with the article, which he said made the council look like it was underperforming, and Walsh’s statement.

“It’s very, very out of pocket for a mayor to say, maybe I’ll make some suggestions, and I’m paraphrasing, on how they can perform better to substantiate a $30,000 paycheck," Bey said. "You’re beyond yourself with that statement and you are without a doubt outside your jurisdiction. You don’t make suggestions to us. If anything, we make them to you. That’s what the charter allows us to do.”

Councilors are proposing raising their salaries from $21,000 to $30,000 a year and raising the mayor’s salary from $115,000 to $130,000 a year. Councilors note it’s been 16 years since there was a cost-of-living increase. The salaries for the council president and city auditor would also go up.

Walsh said he’s not differentiating between the different branches of government.

“There’s always room for improvement and in particular, when we’re discussing the potential of giving out raises, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at the process and determine whether or not there are additional ways we can ultimately show our constituents, our taxpayers, who are paying our bills and paying our salaries, that we are providing maximum value to them,” Walsh said.

One area, Walsh said, where there is room for improvement, is sharing information between his administration and the council. Walsh would not say if he would approve or veto the raises, but he said he did not ask for it and it’s not a priority.

Six out of nine council votes are needed for a veto-proof majority. A committee meeting will be held on Friday to discuss the proposed pay raises.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.