Supervisor Salary Reduced; Town Board Opinion Divided

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As of a New Paltz Town Board meeting on Oct. 29, a spending plan of approximately $11,350,000 has been approved.

This plan includes a cut in the town supervisor’s salary from $53,000 to $40,000 which will be implemented once newly-elected Neil Bettez takes office. The initial conversation over the 2016 budget, of which includes the supervisor’s salary, was discussed long before the democratic caucus for town supervisor election, according to current New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet.

However, if this budget cut were not to be implemented, the salary would still be reduced to $50,000. This is because the $3,000 which was part of the original salary was drawn from social service money; this money was going to be taken out in this year’s budget regardless, according to Zimet.

The social service money came from the safety net program, of which was removed from the town budget in Sept. 2014. This program was being provided to residents of town municipality to verify addresses to make ensure the town was being billed for its residents. However, according to New Paltz Town Councilman Dan Torres, the $3,000 stipend remained in the supervisor salary for 2015.

“When I brought this to the board’s attention no one was willing to remove the $3,000 associated with the stipend for 2015,” Torres said. “Yet, members of the board did not have an issue with reducing the salary by 25 percent for 2016.”

According to Torres, the rationale is that the role of the supervisor has drastically changed since a comptroller was hired, a job that didn’t exist before Zimet. Torres said that Zimet said that it had been planned to adjust the salary, however, “the exact opposite is reflected in her comments when this position was created.”

“I’ve been a part of this community my whole life and been on board for three terms and I can guarantee you this is not a 40 hour a week job with a comptroller and a competent deputy supervisor in place,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Jeff Logan.

At the Oct. 29 meeting, Logan argued that those who have seniority over Irwin and Torres have a better perspective on whether or not the job of town supervisor is a 40-hour-a-week job. In addition to this, Logan brought up the salaries of neighboring towns, such as the Town of Lloyd where the supervisor salary is $35,000. The Town of Lloyd Supervisor also aided in town matters by a deputy supervisor and a comptroller.

According to Town Councilman Marty Irwin, the management of the Town of New Paltz is a $10 million a year enterprise. Irwin said that as a businessman he does not think $20 an hour is an appropriate compensation for the person hired to run it.

Torres explained that reducing the salary of town supervisor is detrimental to the future of the position. He said that this salary cut  hurts 25 percent of the “talent pool” of future candidates. Because the salary for this position is lower future candidates may be limited to those who are independently wealthy, according to Torres.

“I was certainly disappointed that the town board made that decision [to cut the salary], it was flawed and mostly inaccurate,” said Torres. “Neil will still be a full time a supervisor, but as for position as a whole moving forward, this is detrimental.”