The New Paltz Town Board recently denied a proposed salary increase for Town Supervisor Susan Zimet, but granted her two annual stipends for her extra time and efforts.
After stepping in to clean up the budget problems left by previous supervisor Toni Hokanson, Zimet said she asked for $70,000, almost a $20,000 increase, but will instead receive two stipends of $9,607 for this year and next to compensate for her extra work.
Having served as supervisor from 1996 to 2000 and continuing to work in politics, Zimet said she thought she knew what to expect from the job, but found herself in an unfamiliar situation.
“I was coming back 13 years later a lot wiser about what it takes to be a supervisor, so I sort of knew what the workload would be, but I did not expect to walk into a absolute disaster,” Zimet said. “It was sort of like a tsunami in terms of the financial well-being of the town, the bookkeeping, collecting money that was owed, following up on grants that were owed and a lot of other problems.”
Zimet said she was comfortable with the amount of work she anticipated from the job and its pay, as she would still be able to work on other projects, but found herself working constantly to get the town on “solid financial ground,” hindering her ability to work on other things she had planned on.
Rather than helping the town progress, Zimet said she is picking up the pieces of the last administration, helping the town and taxpayers receive the resources they’re entitled to and making sure everything is complacent and legal.
“I’m now basically picking up all the loose ends, tying them all together and trying to close out the work that had been done, file it away as I move forward with all the work that I’m trying to do for the town going forward,” Zimet said.
After her first few months in office, Zimet said she told Councilman Kevin Barry and Councilwoman Jean Gallucci, whom she had ran with, that she needed to cut back on the number of hours she was spending because she was not being paid for them. She said Barry and Gallucci encouraged her to continue doing what she had to and that they needed to get her more money.
When the time came to put in money for raises, Zimet said although it was difficult, she felt it was right of her to ask for a raise.
“I decided that for the amount of work I was doing and for all the problems I was taking care of and for the experience I was bringing, I felt that I deserved the money and I put in for it,” Zimet said.
Although Zimet said the board did not dispute her value, some members worried about what would happen if she did not run again. She said there was concern about having a higher salary for someone who might not do as much work as she currently is.
What was recommended and voted on by the majority of the board was allowing the two stipends to cover her extra work this year and the work needed for next year based on the State Comptroller’s Report released in October, which showed a multitude of issues.
While the idea of the stipends won out over the salary increase, Councilwoman Kitty Brown said she voted the opposite way.
“I voted for a 3 percent salary increase because that is consistent with the maximum level of raise we have given for the 11 years I have served on the Town Council,” Brown said. “I voted against the stipend because it sets a dangerous precedent of elected officials rewarding themselves and their colleagues for doing their job.”
Though she is happy about the compensation of the stipends, Zimet said she does not regret asking for a salary increase.
“I’m not going to apologize for what I’ve done because I really truly believe that nobody would have walked in, taken on what I took on, did what I’ve done, accomplished what I’ve accomplished, solved as many problems as I’ve solved,” Zimet said. “I really had gotten to a point where despite all the push back, I had to still feel positively for myself that it was like…I asked for it, I deserve it, I’m putting the time in and I’m not going to apologize.”