Southold elected officials won’t take pay raises

Proposed raises for Southold’s elected officials have been scrapped for 2011, and the town plans to use the money to put back trash cans at road ends and beaches.
The Town Board adopted a $38.6 million 2011 budget Tuesday night. It deletes raises first proposed in Supervisor Scott Russell’s initial draft budget and retained when the Town Board adopted a preliminary budget.
But Mr. Russell told residents at a work session Tuesday morning that he’d heard the complaints of those who said it was unfair to give 4 percent raises to elected officials at a time when the town was trying to cut back.
The raises would have increased the supervisor’s salary from $86,992 to $90,472 and board members’ salaries from $30,067 to $31,270. Town justices, the town clerk, superintendent of highways, tax receiver, assessors and trustees would have received similar pay hikes.
“Some people said, ‘Whether you deserve it or not, given the current economic climate, we should keep what we had’ for a salary,” Mr. Russell said at the work session.
“I heard a mixed-bag reaction,” said Councilman Al Krupski “Some people said you absolutely deserve it and some said, ‘You’re cutting everything else.’ ”
Councilman Bill Ruland, who had been vocally opposed to the salary increases since they were first proposed, said it was important that the town maintain services for residents, particularly seniors, as a top priority, not giving raises to public officials.
The final budget also excludes raises for appointed members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board that were included in the earlier budgets plans.
Mr. Russell said that the money the town would save by nixing the raises — about $37,000 — would not be enough to affect next year’s projected tax increase of 1.93 percent, even if it were eliminated outright from the budget. He said he would reallocate the money to cover overtime costs for emptying trash cans at road ends and to invest in more cans and in lids to keep seagulls and raccoons from raiding them.
The town removed the trash cans at the end of the summer season to reduce the cost of picking up the garbage year-round, but Mr. Russell announced last week that he planned to reinstate the program after people began leaving their garbage on the beaches, creating just as much work for town employees as when the cans were there.
The budget changes generated a mixed reaction at the board’s evening session, held at Peconic Landing in Greenport. Benja Schwartz of Cutchogue said he would have preferred the savings from cutting the raises to have been used to decrease taxes, even by a minimal amount. Peconic resident Hugh Switzer said he believed elected officials deserved “at least what was put in the budget.”
East Marion resident James Spanos said he’d researched the salaries of elected officials in other East End towns and found that Southold’s are on the low end.
“The pay this board is getting is undervalued,” he said.