Common Council Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress said this week that he and fellow aldermen a talking about a “permanent and nonpartisan” solution to the issue of pay hikes for elected officials — one that would peg raises to the same cost of living adjustment used to adjust Social Security payments. The proposal would also raise the mayor’s pay to $80,000 starting next year and $100,000 in 2020 following citywide elections.
Scott-Childress’ proposal comes after Mayor Steve Noble included a $5,000 pay raise for the position in his requested 2019 budget. Noble’s request was coupled with a proposal that the council consider an incremental increase over the next four years to raise the mayoral salary from $75,000 to $100,000. The raise, Noble said, would bring the salary in line with mayors in Middletown and Poughkeepsie and would ensure that the office would continue to attract well-qualified candidates.
Scott-Childress said the council proposal, which had been discussed informally as aldermen weigh the 2019 budget, would grant Noble’s request for a $5,000 raise next year. Rather than phase in the raise to $100,000 over the next three years, the council plan would raise the mayor’s pay by $15,000 in 2020. Scott-Childress said the timing of the raise would give voters an opportunity to weigh in on the plan in next year’s citywide elections.
Scott-Childress’ proposal would add another feature — one that he said would avoid the once-a-decade political haggling over pay hikes for elected officials. The plan would give the mayor and aldermen (who currently make $8,000 per year) an annual cost of living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. Scott-Childress said the proposal would take the politics out of future pay raises and avoid the impression that lawmakers were voting themselves a benefit. Scott-Childress said the COLA could be embedded in legislation passed by the council this year, but would not take effect until 2020.
“The salaries of Kingston elected officials will rise according to a fair, appropriate and nonpartisan procedure,” Scott-Childress wrote in an email outlining the plan. “Moreover, by putting the increases off to 2020 the current members of the Common Council will not be giving themselves a raise.”
Scott-Childress’ proposal is expected to be discussed as part of the ongoing 2019 budget process. The council is expected to pass the budget next month.