COLONIE — The Town Board, in a vote split along party lines, approved a new bargaining unit and extended raises for a number of town employees through 2025.
The raises for a host of employees not currently represented by a bargaining unit was included in the 2022 budget, but the board extended the 2 percent raise in 2021 and 2022 to include a 2.5 percent increase in 2023 and a 2.75 percent increase in 2024 and 2025.
The raises include all department heads, deputy department heads, all elected officials including Town Board members, the supervisor and the three judges, members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, crossing guards and the town band’s co-director.
“I think it would be very unethical if I were to vote to give myself a raise especially during these economically challenging times right now,” said Town Board member Danielle Futia, a Republican. “I’m also disappointed this resolution combines the town employees with elected officials because it prevents me from giving them a raise but I can’t vote to give myself a raise so I vote no.”
Town Board member Rick Field, also a Republican who cast a no vote, said he would have a difficult time going door to door should he opt to run for another term and justify the fact he voted to give himself a raise.
“I think the average taxpayer, if they looked at some of these salaries of these employees would think they are substantial at the present time. A time when gas is nearly $4 a gallon and inflation is up to 7 percent and in general people are losing their jobs and in this town we have a lot of elderly people who are on fixed incomes so I vote no,” he said.
The resolution passed 5-2 in a rare break from unanimity with Democrats Supervisor Paula Mahan and Town Board members Melissa Jeffers, Linda Murphy, Brian Austin and Jill Penn casting votes in the affirmative. They did not comment at the Town Board meeting before casting a vote.
The initial round of raises were included in the $105.4 million budget that increases spending by 5.4 percent and taxes by 2.7 percent. Salaries and wages will increase by 2.9 million, or 7 percent.
Some examples of the pay raises from 2021 to 2022 include:
• The supervisor, an elected position, would see a salary increase from $123,006 to $128,428
• The police chief, an appointed position and the highest paid employee in town, would see a salary increase from $141,202 to $146,725.
• Each of the two deputy chiefs, appointed positions, would see their salaries increase from $133,715 to $138,753.
• The five member Town Board’s salary would increase from $21,479 to $22,347
• The commissioner of the Department of Public Works, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $129,323 to $134,547
• The town comptroller, an appointed position, would increase from $117,566 to $122,315.
• The receiver of taxes, an elected position, would see a salary increase to $99,224 from $95,370
• The town clerk, an elected position, would see a salary increase from $91,317 to $95,750
• The town attorney, an appointed position, would see an increase from $105,913 to $110,192.
• The human resources director, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $88,131 to $101,879.
• The director of management information services, an appointed position, would see an increase from $112,024 to $116,551.
• The senior animal control officer, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $57,807 to $65,958
• The EMS chief, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $111,082 to $116,551
• The swimming pool maintenance worker, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $61,558 to $68,063
• The Building Department manager, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $101,291 to $105,346
• The Planning and Economic Development Department director, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $105,271 to $109,806
• The Sewer District superintendent, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $111,100 to $116,551.
• The Water District superintendent, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $112,024 to $116,551.
• The library director, an appointed position, would see a salary increase from $98,856 to $103,821.
Those salaries and many others will increase each year according to the schedule outlined above.
The new union
By the same 5-2 vote the Town Board voted to create a new union, called the Colonie Professional Employees Alliance, that will include 20 positions currently not represented by a bargaining unit.
“The timing is very inappropriate. We have had 14 years of this administration and it comes down the last meeting and we are voting on a union,” Field said. “Unions make things more expensive. That is one of the disadvantages of the unions and if I am looking out for the taxpayer, who will ultimately be paying for something more expensive and that is what will ultimately happen, I am voting no.”
“I would like to see the alliance’s creation with the next supervisor so I vote no,” Futia said.
Mahan said everyone in the 20 positions — which include the EMS chief and deputy chief, director of Management Information Services, general services director, library director and the sewer and water district superintendents — took a civil service test and were hired off a certified list.
She said the creation of the union is not to protect jobs but to protect their health insurance benefits after they retire.
“If you are not in a bargaining unit you are not guaranteed you will have health insurance. Down the road, in the future, things change and people could lose their health insurance. It came to light just a few months ago,” Mahan said. “It didn’t come up a year ago because nobody knew about it. It closes the loophole and protect these folks as well. I want to see them protected.”