Jefferson County lawmakers pass 2022 budget while nixing their own pay raises

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 5:39 AM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson County passed its 2022 budget Tuesday night following a lively exchange between legislators.

The budget passed, but only after two amendments.

The first was about a 3 percent funding increase for 13 public benefit agencies, including Zoo New York, the Watertown Urban Mission, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Legislator Patrick Jareo argued that not all the agencies asked for a raise, so they shouldn’t just get one.

“My personal and sole opinion was to get rid of all the increases across the board with the exception of the VTC, because there’s a significant need there,” Jareo said,

But board chair Scott Gray says these agencies are used to not asking for an increase because they haven’t had one in years.

“I think the proposition to give them a 3 percent increase is reasonable,” Gray said. “If you factor in compounding, it comes to less than a percent per year since they’ve had their last increase.”

An amendment to the budget cut the increase for 10 of these groups, now only giving more money to the Volunteer Transportation Center, county libraries, and the county Historical Society.

But the reasoning of “if the agencies don’t ask for the increase, they shouldn’t get it” led to another amendment.

“These agencies do community service and serve the public just as you do here,” Gray said. “You folks did not ask for an increase, and I’ll speculate as much as you speculate about the agencies -- none of you probably need it. So, I’ll take a motion to rescind pay raises as well.”

Both amendments carried, meaning the legislators froze their own 3 percent pay raises and only gave the 3 percent increase to the county libraries, the VTC, and the historical society.

That makes for an overall savings of $52,000, which will go to the county’s fund balance.

The tax levy remains unchanged.

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