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Syracuse councilors consider pay raises for themselves, mayor, but some oppose it

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
The city clerk, right, explains some details of the potential pay raises to Syracuse councilors.

It has been almost 16 years since Syracuse common councilors had a salary increase. The council is now reviewing whether pay raises are needed.

Syracuse councilors make less than councilors in Rochester and Buffalo, although they make slightly more than councilors in Albany. Councilors are considering bumping up their own salaries from $21,000 to $30,000 a year. That is what they would be making if councilors received a yearly 2% increase, since the last time they received one in 2004. The council is also considering pay raises for the mayor, city auditor and council president. Councilor Joe Driscoll said the raises are even-handed and justified but he admitted, nobody likes to see a politician give themselves pay raises.

“In the face of unpopular opinion, you have to make the tough decisions and move forward," Driscoll said. "I think this is one of those ones where you have to take the heat and say, we believe this is best practice. I think it’s good for the city. People should require more of their councilors, demand more of their time and demand results. The longer we kick the can down the road and leave it to the next council, and the next mayor, and the next generation, and don’t just fess up and deal with it, we’ll continue to attract low quality candidates."

At least two councilors, including Joe Carni, are against the raises.  

“We don’t have a balanced budget," Carni said. "We’re facing a huge deficit. I just can’t get on board with saying we’re going to raise our pay, when we’re in such a difficult financial situation.”

No legislation has been drafted yet. The earliest the council could vote on the raises would be in the beginning of December, and only after a public hearing was held first.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has not said if he would sign or veto any potential legislation on the 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.