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Raise debated long after budget adoption

More than a month after the Town of Tonawanda's budget for 2007 was adopted by default, there was debate Tuesday about a pay hike for the highway superintendent.

Tuesday was the board's annual organizational meeting, when salaries and wages for elected officials and employees not covered under union contracts routinely are approved.

But the salary of Highway Superintendent Bradley A. Rowles, first elected in 2003, was not treated as such during the work session before the meeting.

Councilman Joseph H. Emminger questioned the $68,082 figure, saying a Town Board committee had talked about raises of 3 percent up to $2,000.

"I thought that's what we're going to be doing for everybody, including Brad," Emminger said. "I think that Brad should be treated like all of our other department heads and get a $2,000 raise."

Rowles' new salary reflects an increase of more than 4 percent above last year's pay of $65,082.

Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said the $3,000 increase had been budgeted since he presented the tentative 2007 budget in late September. It prevailed through the preliminary budget, which became final by default on the state's deadline of Nov. 20.

Though the preliminary budget was voted down, 6-1, during that meeting, there was no time left for the board to act on another. Moline, who cast the sole vote to approve the budget, said Tuesday: "I feel strongly that the highway superintendent should receive that $3,000 increase."

Moline cited additional responsibilities created by the implementation of garbage totes in the town and Rowles' role in the cleanup after the October snowstorm, which came after Moline presented the tentative budget. He also noted that the gross salaries of at least two department employees have exceeded that of Rowles.

As the controversy swirled around him, Rowles did agree with Moline on one point. "This is something that should have been discussed long before tonight," he said.

Moline suggested the majority of the Town Board could change the salary if they wanted, or the resolution could be removed from Tuesday's agenda.

In the end, Emminger relented. "We will leave it as it is," he said.

The resolution later was approved during the organizational meeting.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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