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Council looks to increase mayor's pay

The City Council could triple the mayor's salary to $90,000 next year, although the lawmakers say internal debate could reduce that number before Monday's planned vote.

Councilman Chris A. Robins said each Council member has suggested a different salary in the last month, so he decided to put the highest number on a resolution and submit it for Monday's meeting.

"There's going to be an increase," Robins said. "We put a number that was high, and then we decided we were going to negotiate. Publicly we'll talk about it and get some feedback."

The number could fall to $60,000.

The current mayoral salary of $30,000 was set in 1988 under a revised City Charter, and Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr. said Thursday that about 545 city employees make more than the mayor.

"I don't see this as a political move," Anderson said. "This city needs someone with strong leadership and pay commensurate with the responsibility."

Politics, however, plays a role in the timing, Robins said. He said he submitted the resolution to resolve the issue in time to attract candidates interested in running for the position in November.

The Council also is expected to increase the salary of the part-time Council members to $12,000 from $8,000. Two seats on the five-member Council will also be on the ballot in this year's election.

Anderson and Robins said they hope the increases will help attract a wider field of qualified candidates for all the seats.

Councilman Lewis Rotella said he used the pay of local chief executive officers to come up with an $80,000 or $90,000 recommendation.

"I know it's a big number but for almost 19 years no one addressed [the salary]," Rotella said. "I look at the city as an $86 million corporation. I look at the mayor as a CEO."

Robins suggested $60,000 based on his research of mayoral salaries from across the state.

In 2002, a Charter Revision Commission unsuccessfully proposed setting the mayor's salary at 10 percent more than the highest-paid department head, which today would be about $85,000.

The mayor of North Tonawanda receives a salary of $50,000, while the mayor of the City of Lockport gets $43,800. Mayors in those cities often have held other jobs. In both cities, the mayors' secretaries are paid more than Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello.

Rotella said he doesn't consider it fair to compare Niagara Falls to those cities because the Falls is larger and its mayor may not hold another job.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown currently earns $105,000, and does not have another job.

"This is well overdue," said Zachary Casale, a neighborhood revitalization coordinator for the city Community Development Department and the Main Street Business and Professional Association.

Attorney Morton Abramowitz, who advises the City Council, said the raises would affect only newly elected lawmakers. Regarding the City Council raises, Abramowitz said no current lawmaker would benefit unless they were re-elected.

"To raise their own pay during the term for themselves would not be legal," he said. "That would take a public referendum."


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