A Pay Raise Plan is Advanced For O.C. Officials

GOSHEN – The Orange County Legislature’s Personnel and Compensation Committee approved raises for county officials – the county executive, county clerk and legislators – that will go into effect beginning the next legislative term.

The vote to raise salaries passed 5-3 on Friday, with two legislators abstaining, Laurie Tautel of District 14 and Kevindaryan Lujan of District 4, both Democrats.

The total cost of all the raises would be $68,455 in the 2022 budget. The salaries would increase over a four-year period.

Lujan said he didn’t feel it was his right to vote on something from which he would financially benefit, especially being that his district is impoverished.

“I can’t, in good conscience, vote on something and favor something that I feel I might be able to benefit from. It’s just simply not something I would get behind,” said Lujan.

“Moreover, I would say, while $68,000 might not seem like a lot, just a moment ago we just approved a position for $41,000, which we are happy we are getting money for; but, let’s say, for example, that we didn’t. How many positions could we be creating? We could be creating, at least, one position in the county with that money,” he said.

Legislator Tautel suggested that a separate committee be formed to vote on these raises; however, Orange County Commissioner of Human Resources Steven Gross clarified that current law designates the county legislature as the only body who can make such a decision.

Compared to other neighboring counties, Orange is paying their elected officials much less with respect to the amount of services they provide and the fact they haven’t exceeded the tax cap in four years. Also, the county had given up per-diem approximately 20 years ago, gave up gas mileage claims and is currently making less than 30 percent of what the average salary in the county is.

This was the argument of Legislative Chairman Stephen Brescia as he added he wished the government would operate more like the private sector and the discussion of salary increase, which has been one percent per-year for the last eight years, be treated as an objective issue rather than a partisan political one.

“The work of a legislator is much more than it was 25 years ago when I came in here-much more, and we’re not cutting services, we’re not cutting emergency responders here. We stay below the cap every year, as a team, in the legislature,” said Brescia. “Every year we stay below the cap. The State of New York and many other municipalities around us are not staying below the cap; so, our services in Orange County are second to none and this definitely warrants it,” he said.

If this passes the full legislature, the salary of a legislator will be $35,585.

This item will come before the full legislature at its February 6 session.

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