The status of the mayor’s salary in the Village of New Paltz is once again at the center of public discussion on how much elected officials should make. However, unlike in recent years, a pay raise looks likely for the mayor.
On Wednesday, April 13, the New Paltz Village Board discussed approving the 2017 budget, which would include a pay raise for Mayor Tim Rogers. Rogers currently makes $25,000 and is seeking a raise of $20,000, totalling $45,000.
The meeting was preceded by weeks of community-wide discussion fixating on the proposed increase to the mayor’s salary. The conversation surrounding a pay raise for Rogers was met with unanimous support across the village board. According to Village Trustee Don Kerr, the board viewed the job as full-time as opposed to those who see it as a part-time position.
“This job has always been more than 40 hours a week,” Kerr said. “I believe the mayor is always looking for ways to reduce costs for the village.”
Kerr cited Rogers’ involved management of village funding for the Millbrook Preserve and his work on the water issues facing the community as examples of his active leadership and cost efficiency.
Kerr also stated that he thought the position was being underpaid, a view he has consistently held for previous mayors, including former mayor Jason West. Kerr believed that in both West and Rogers’ cases they were deserving of “full-time pay for the full-time position.”
During his second term in office, West was engaged in a series of disputes with the village board regarding his salary. In 2012, West was approved for a salary of $35,500, a pay raise of $13,000. However, in 2013 he received a pay reduction of $13,000, back to a base-level salary of $22,500 after he requested a $13,000 pay raise. According to Kerr, the legal battle between West and the village board cost the village $51,000 in legal fees, including a $12,000 settlement in February of 2015.
Critics of the pay raise argue that the issue is another contentious point in the discussions surrounding village-town consolidation efforts. The consolidation proposal centers around the village and town of New Paltz becoming one municipal entity. Supporters of consolidation point to the town government led by town supervisor Neil Bettez as a reason to cut costs and combine efforts between the two boards.
Currently, Bettez has a salary of $51,000 a year, $3,000 less than former town supervisor Susan Zimet made in 2015. Kerr said that he would not speculate as to how this decision would affect future consolidation discussions, but did say that “it has been the age-old question of New Paltz.”
“The village is different from the town,” Kerr said. “That’s not to diminish the town [of New Paltz], but the village is unique.”