Deputy Mayor KT Tobin proposed a $10,000 increase on the Village Mayor’s salary at the April 10 Village Board Trustee meeting, but the idea of raising Mayor Rogers’ salary only scratches the surface of what is behind this proposal.
Currently, the Village of New Paltz Mayor salary is $45,450. Tobin proposed it be raised to $55,450, not only due to the cost of living in New Paltz, but because of the upcoming election on May 7.
“[New] Paltz is an expensive place to live and based on our own affordable housing eligibility thresholds, the current mayor’s salary does not adequately provide given the cost of living here,” Tobin said. “When we set this salary so low, it makes it so many people in our community could not even consider running and serving as mayor, because they would never be able to make ends meet earning well below what it costs to live here. That means we are systematically excluding potential public servants based on socioeconomics.”
The Village of New Paltz community members stand on different sides of the proposal in a Village Facebook page, referencing whether this salary increase would raise taxes, or that a merger between the Village and Town would be beneficial. Both sides seem like they are missing valuable information.
First, this salary raise will not increase taxes, as it is a part of the unrestricted fund balance, which is basically the taxpayers of the Village’s own “rainy day fund” However, the fund would have ample money for any random need even without the $10,000.
“I [am] opposed to [the raise], as I believe we shouldn’t put a bandaid on this situation and add $10,000 to the salary. I think we need to be a little bit more thoughtful about if there are ways that we can run a village and town government more efficiently,” current Village Mayor Tim Rogers said, who is running unopposed in the election.
“I feel like the Town and Village need to take a closer look at having a shared municipal manager, and maybe using some shared financial functions to try to save some money across the Town and the Village,” Rogers said, mirroring his proposal from the April 10 Village Board Trustee meeting.
As stated in the final report of the New Paltz Government Efficiency and Effectiveness Project from 2011, a merger is not recommended due to New York State Law. The law states that since voters maintain the village, only the voters may choose to end the village and be a part of the town. On the other hand, this does not mean the Town and Village do not share certain services.
Currently, the Town and Village of New Paltz share a police and fire department, a town court and an assessor. Residents of New Paltz may become confused, as they could believe they are being taxed twice for the same service, but they are not.
“There really aren’t a great deal of redundancies and I think it is really confusing to several people because we have a Village named New Paltz and a Town named New Paltz,” Rogers said. “Any sort of highway work is done in the Town outside of the Village, and any sort of road work is done in the Village, [while] the planning board function is just for properties outside of the Village while the Village Planning Board is just for land use applications within the Village.”
The Village’s fiduciary responsibility regarding taxpayers should be handled thoughtfully, however with a low salary such as Mayor Rogers’, it is difficult to complete all the tasks of a Mayor for a seemingly scare wage. A municipal manager between the Town and the Village would lessen these responsibilities on a Town Supervisor or Village Mayor’s role, or eliminate the role entirely.
If a municipal manager were to be paid by both the Village and the Town, they would do more of the running of services work, such as if there was an update to storm drain infrastructure. This would allow for the Town and Village to save money by paying the Town Supervisor and Village Mayor less than their current salary, as their job description becomes more part-time.
“We are very fortunate that Tim Rogers is able to take on this role at his current salary. The time and skills and leadership he contributes certainly goes well above and beyond given what might be expected at his current salary,” Tobin said. “At our last meeting, the board approved a raise of the mayor’s salary by $10,000 on the condition the board re-visit the issue in six months to see what transpires on the discussion of a possible municipal manager shared with the town.”