The Town of West Seneca supervisor wants a 29 percent raise for her duties.
Sheila M. Meegan is proposing she receives a $16,904 bump, from $63,096 to $80,000, in the town's 2017 tentative budget of $37.7 million, which was the subject of a public hearing Monday night in Council Chambers. She is also proposing an increase in her stipend as budget director, from $500 to $2,000.
The proposed hike didn't sit well with residents at the two-hour hearing. Many of them emphasized that Meegan took the job knowing what it paid and questioned the timing of her proposal.
"I think it's wrong for anybody to increase their salary when they're in office," Covington Drive resident Dave Kims said to applause. "If you want it to be $80,000, do it after the next election. I don't think it's right."
Meegan won re-election last year on three minor party lines after losing the Democratic primary. She was elected as a town councilwoman in 2007 and as supervisor in 2011.
She responded to Kims, and others who spoke later, by saying she's been told by others that she deserves a raise and that the staff in her office is down to one from three several years ago.
"Tell me why I don't deserve the raise," she told Kims. "I work hard for this job, for this town, day in and day out."
A salary dispute also erupted this budget season in another suburb.
The Amherst Town Board last month approved 40 percent raises for council members, as well as pay increases for all elected town officials. In a 3-2 bipartisan vote, the salary for council members will increase to $35,000 from the current $25,500 a year, while the supervisor’s annual salary will rise to $105,000 from $75,000.
Meegan said her new salary, if approved, would still be less than all the town's department heads and less than what supervisors earn in other towns with the same population. She said she could've taken incremental raises of 2 percent a year, but then would be accused of constantly giving herself raises. Her position does not include health care benefits.
For one comparison, the Town of Tonawanda supervisor earns $63,775 for those duties and an additional $13,277 as budget director. That's $4,948 less than Meegan would make in West Seneca, a town with 25,000 fewer residents and a budget that is $62 million smaller.
"There's no winning in this situation," Meegan said. "But at the end of the day I have to say it's a difficult position to be in as far as giving yourself a raise."
Dale Clarke, a former town councilman, had harsh words for the Town Board.
"You ran for it," he said. "It's no time to be asking for a raise after the fact. When's the last time you went to a bank and said, 'I don't like paying five percent interest. I want it lowered to four.' When's the last time you did that? You don't change the rules after the fact."
Many residents also said Monday's 5 p.m. budget hearing was held at an inopportune time for working people and that it was poorly publicized.
In the tentative budget, the salaries of the Town Board's two councilors is unchanged at $21,500. The Town Board will resume the budget hearing Nov. 7 with an eye toward adopting a budget as well.
The $37.7 million tentative budget includes a 4.53 percent tax rate increase.
An average home in the town, with a fair market value of $150,000, or $60,000 under the town's equalization rate, would pay $33 more per year in their town taxes, Luke R. Malecki, a partner at Drescher and Malecki, said during a budget presentation.
Much of that was driven by a 9.5 percent increase in health insurance costs for town employees, which went from $3.8 million to $4.1 million.
The budget also includes the terms of a new four-year contract with town police officers, which calls for average raises of 2.4 percent annually and health insurance contributions from all employees.
Councilman William P. Hanley Jr. said he anticipates additional minor reductions to spending before a budget vote.