People run for public office in towns and villages for many different reasons, but we don’t believe it is for the money.Some want to make a difference and make their community a better place. Others may see waste or incompetence and believe they can do a better job.
In the end, it is a form of community service.
It is a way to give back.
Thursday evening at 6:30, the village of South Glens Falls will have a public hearing to review its proposed budget, including salary increases for the mayor and trustees.
We believe it is instructive how the village got to this point.
Just a year ago, its finances were shaky at best. It didn’t even have the cash on hand to buy a new patrol car for its police force.
Mayor Harry Gutheil has helped turn things around, and just recently convinced union members to drop a duplicate prescription drug plan and save the village $81,000.
That put the village in the black for next year’s budget.
Gutheil went ahead and budgeted 2 percent raises for the part-time trustees, but last week the trustees decided that was not enough. After going without a raise since 2008—the trustees even took a 10 percent pay cut in 2013 — they proposed increasing their salaries from $7,560 to $10,300.
Board member Nick Bodkin argued that the board should be paid more to beef up their credits in the state retirement system. Without raises in recent years, and with the minimum wage rising, trustees were losing ground when it came to the value of their state pensions.
We believe that was an unfortunate argument, especially in a climate when few citizens have a pension and many more struggle on a fixed income. We believe a far better argument is that the higher pay scale will help to attract quality candidates to serve the village, but that is not the course the board chose.
It was bad optics.
One of our board members was especially incensed at Bodkin’s comments, saying he was “sick and tired of listening to crybabies.”
Maybe more importantly, South Glens Falls has struggled with its finances in recent years. It appears short-sighted to reward the leadership with a big raise — at least right now — when it is unclear what the future holds. Health insurance coverage for board members was dropped in 2016.
A more palatable proposal would have been a $700 increase in each of the next four years to ensure trustee salaries increase gradually as the financial health of the village recovers.
Ultimately, the board proposed the $2,740 annual raise, despite the reluctance of Mayor Gutheil.
Board members pointed out that when you use the 20-hour work week as a standard, the wage is less than minimum wage.
While that is true, we are skeptical each member of the board puts in 20 hours a week for the entire year. Some may, and there are times when all might, but we’re not convinced it is an accurate portrayal of the workload.
Moreau Town Board members, who we see as carrying a much heavier work load, are paid $11,526 each.
It is unfortunate the pension formula has penalized trustees who have been so fiscally responsible in the past, but we would remind everyone of our original observation: Is that why trustees chose to serve?
Ultimately, this is up to the citizens of the village as they get a chance to weigh in this evening. The question they have to ask themselves is whether they believe taxpayers can afford the raises.
One of our board members wondered if a bonus system could be put in place rewarding board members who find ways to save taxpayers money. At the very least, the board should justify what they have done to earn the raise.
The village’s finances finally appear to be going in the right direction, so the most important thing is to continue that momentum.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Carol Merchant, Eric Mondschein and Bob Tatko.