County Legislators to vote on elections commissioners’ new salary

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

Legislators voted to approve a measure that would increase the salaries of the two Cortland County’s election commissioners and turn their positions into full-time roles at the Government Operations Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The salary of both the Republican and Democrat elections commissioners would be increased from $34,552.37 to $55,315, if the proposal is approved at the legislative session on March 23.

Democratic commissioner Thomas Brown said commissioners should be compensated better.

“Elections have changed a lot over the last few years,” he said. “With the changes to state elections law, the workload is much greater than it ever was, and so is the responsibility.”

The state has passed measures to allow same-day voter registration and early voting in the last four years. 

The committee also elevated Republican Deputy Elections Commissioner Michelle Brown to the role of elections commissioner, following the passing of former commissioner Robert Howe in February.

Michelle Brown said there have been dozens of laws passed in three years that affect elections. 

“We have to know and interpret these laws,” she said.

Legislature Majority Leader George Wagner (R-LD-15) advocated for the commissioners to get better pay. He voted “no” on the measure arguing the commissioners should earn more.

“We have more elections than ever,” he said. “The job has become more complicated than ever. There are more hoops to jump through instituted by the state. I think it should be at least $60,000.”

Legislator Kelly Preston (R-LD-10) said the Legislature should go with the amount recommended by personnel officer Laurie Leonard and county administrator Rob Corpora. 

“Routinely county employees get new laws they have to interpret,” Preston said. “That is part of being a county employee. Everything is changing. This is a good starting point. It has been reviewed. I will support it.”

Leonard said she reviewed pay for commissioners at 23 other counties in New York.  

“Out of the 23, 14 have full-time commissioners,” she said. “The average of their salaries was $56,076.”

The Legislature will vote on the measure at its meeting on March 23.