Cortland legislators could get pay raises in 2016

CORTLAND, N.Y. – After nearly 25 years, Cortland County legislators may finally get to see a bump in pay.

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The budget and finance committee of the legislature voted Wednesday to allocate a $4,000 salary increase for the county’s 17 legislators. The position is part-time.

Legislators make about $6,000 annually and haven't received a salary increase since 1991.

“I feel we are due the $4,000 increase because we’re not going to discuss this for another 25 years,” legislator George Wagner said Wednesday.

Some lawmakers also see a salary increase as a way to make the position more appealing to future candidates.

“I’m not saying the money is a draw, but it sure is a lot less of a draw at this current rate,” legislator Thomas Hartnett said. “It’s not about us, it’s about this position, and that’s what we have to look at.”

As part of the proposed salary increase, Wagner also put forth a proposal that would cap mileage reimbursement for legislators at $100 per month. Some legislators have questioned the need for mileage reimbursements, citing county employees who are not reimbursed for attending various meetings and events.

Legislator James Denkenberger, whose district includes the towns of Truxton and Solon, has fought for keeping mileage reimbursements, saying he often has to travel long distances to attend town board meetings.

“The mileage rate is not a gift,” Denkenberger said. “That’s not a cash award for driving around. That reimburses you for expenses, gas, and the cost of a vehicle.”

Wagner also proposed Wednesday tying any future annual salary increases for legislators to the county’s compensation plan for managers. In 2016, that would mean a 1 and a half percent increase for legislators, officials said.

The legislative pay increase is subject to approval of the county's 2016 budget.

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