Cortland County considers salary bump for planning director position

Cortland County office building. (Photo Source: Kevin L. Smith/Cortland Voice)

Members of the Cortland County Legislature’s Agriculture, Planning and Environmental Committee unanimously voted Thursday to recommend the currently vacant planning director position move to a new tier on the salary schedule.

The new planning director would come with added responsibilities focused on economic development, as well as a salary that is anywhere from $91,771 to $122,148 based on experience. This would bump the position from a grade 5 to a grade 3 role. As a grade 5 position, the salary range for the role was anywhere between $79,412 to $105,698, based on experience.

If the County’s Finance and Administration Committee, and County Legislature, vote on the measure this month, it would take effect on Jan. 26. 

The position has sat vacant since last year, when former planning director Trisha Jesset resigned in October. Since then, Alex Schultz has stepped in as interim director.

“We thought we had a candidate previously, but that didn’t work out,” said Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2). “We have only had one other applicant apply. So we are asking ourselves do we need to reimagine what this is?”

Harbin spoke about the development of industry in other counties, such as Onondaga County being the host of a multi-billion Micron computer chip plant. Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-LD-3) echoed his comments.

“It is important we get someone that can represent us in the way we need to be represented,” she said.

The new description for the position includes the following revisions, based on a copy found on the meeting’s agenda:

  • (The planning director) guides the preparation of feasibility studies and statistical analysis for planning reports, including supervision of consultant documents.
  • Recommends economic development projects for consideration by the director and respective organizations, including the Legislature and the Industrial Development Agency (IDA). (e.g. IDA, Legislature, etc.).
  • Participates in regional, state and federal planning activities, including review of new planning and environmental legislation.
  • Assesses infrastructure needs in the county, recommends solutions to resolve them and implement projects.
  • Applies for grant and loan funds to accomplish the mission of the Department.
  • Works with and is the liaison to other economic and development agencies in the county.

Of the new salary grade, Harbin said it would bring the planning director position in line with other department heads in the county.

“It says to others that this is how important it is for us to have a seat at the table with our other powerful countries,” he added.