Lewis passes 2020 budget

LOWVILLE — Despite a lengthy discussion about salaries for newly elected officials, the Lewis County Board of Legislators passed the proposed 2020 budget Tuesday.

In a debate that began during the Finance and Rules Committee meeting before the special board meeting held Tuesday evening, legislators challenged the proposed salary for the newly elected county treasurer in the 2020 tentative budget.

The new treasurer was budgeted for $79,000, the same salary as the outgoing longterm treasurer who had worked up to that level over years in office, plus the 2 percent annual increase she would have been given if she had stayed in the post.

That salary is in the middle of the pay scale which goes from about $70,000 to about $90,000, according to information provided by committee chairman Bryan Moser.

There was also concern about the discrepancy with the newly elected county clerk position which was budgeted starting at the bottom of the position’s pay scale, $53,060, while the outgoing clerk is earning $61,009.

It came out in the discussion that the Republican Party chairman, Michael Young, made calls to legislators complaining about the inconsistency.

“Picking and choosing is totally wrong,” said District 10 Legislator Jerry King. “Let’s fund the position, not the person.”

Other legislators argued that the treasurer-elect, whose current salary as executive director of the county IDA is half-funded by the county, is being paid commensurate with his experience and because he is not new to the county system.

After an initial resolution offered by Mr. King to keep both positions in line with the current salaries for the posts with a freeze on increases for the next two years was narrowly defeated, he offered another resolution to budget the current salary plus 2 percent totaling $62,229, for the incoming clerk to be in line with the treasurer’s salary.

The resolution passed unanimously with Mr. Moser recusing himself.

The budget also included $1,000 salary bumps for each of the board members which would have been the first increase in a number of years, however, the board voted 7 to 2 in favor of taking the raises out of the budget.

District 9 Legislator Thomas Osborne and Board Chairman Lawrence Dolhof voted against the measure.

During the public hearing on the budget, representatives from libraries around the county as well as the North Country Library System asked the board to consider giving them more money to fund their operating costs.

The libraries requested $40,000 to be split among the 10 charter public libraries and two public reading rooms in the county for operating expenses, but were granted $20,000 for 2020, as in 2019.

No change was made to the library funding, despite the request and the salary adjustments made amounted to a $831 decrease in the budgeting spending for next year.

The $50 million tentative budget passed by a vote of 8 to 1, with Mr. Osborne voting against.

The county’s tax levy next year will be $17,033,788, Treasurer Patricia O’Brien said, after calculating the changes, the tax rate will remain at 7.49 percent.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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