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Tonawanda Council OKs pay hike

Although it is not nearly the raise rejected in February, the Tonawanda Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a salary hike for whoever occupies Council seats next January.

Beginning in 2012, four Council members will make $7,500 a year, up from $7,000. The Council president, which serves a four-year term, will make $10,000 next year, an increase of $1,000.

The Council is required to set salary rates for the upcoming election term by May 1. The last time any member of the Council saw a raise was in 2008.

"The Council looked at the length of time since we got [a raise] and decided to do this," Council President Carleton Zeisz said.

Council Member William Poole noted that elected legislators in neighboring towns make more than they do and defended his vote.

"The Council has had insignificant increases in pay," he said. "It certainly doesn't keep up with inflation."

Some Council members were asked if they were worried about any political blowback for their vote, especially given much of the current anti-government rancor.

"My thinking is that these raises are not for us, or for me personally," said Poole, who is still "on the fence" about running for re-election. "They're for whomever holds this position next. I don't think the position should be an employment opportunity, but I do think that a conscientious councilman does more than $7,500 a year. I don't think the raise is outrageous in any way."

"In relation to other communities, it is low," Zeisz said. "The group felt that it should do something consistent with what we've done with the rest of our employees. With the time put in by everybody, it's still pretty modest pay."

The Council previously considered the issues of raises in February when Council members Richard Slisz and Poole supported an increase of $3,000 each to every member of the Council. That measure was voted down, 3-2.

In other action, the Council approved moving the city budget schedule back to November and December, which would give the mayor's office more time to determine state-mandated expenses, including retirement system payments. Previously, the mayor had to submit a budget in August and the Council had to approve it in mid-September.

"If you think of it, it's tough for the mayor politically because the election is at that time, but you have to put politics aside for the good of the city," Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said.