OSWEGO – The Oswego County Legislature Thursday night approved a $12,400 pay increase for the county District Attorney. It’s not like they really had a choice in the matter.
According the NYS Judiciary Law, each county’s DA salary is linked to the salaries of state judges. The salary for a DA must be equal to or exceed the salary of the county court judge or state Supreme Court justice.
The Oswego County District Attorney will see his salary increase to $197,600.
Since 2016, when the state stopped reimbursing counties for the DA pay hikes, the salary has increased 30 percent. The state now mandates the counties bear the financial burden.
Legislator Terry Wilbur urged approval of the resolution, citing he didn’t want (the county) to be in violation of state law.
The vote was 15 yes, nine no and one absent.
Some legislators voiced their disgust with the state’s unfunded mandate.
None were more vocal than Legislator Richard Kline.
“This is not about a person. This is about a position. My brothers and sisters in Albany have decided to make this a mandate over here and push it down our throats! Not only is it a mandate that they’re not going to fund, it’s creating a huge disparity within the people that work for us,” he said. “Our most valuable asset is not our buildings, not our snowplows – it’s our people. And, you’ve got to treat the people fairly.”
One position is now paid $197,600. That is a 30 percent increase in three years, Kline pointed out.
Nowhere in the private sector did anyone get that kind of raise, he said. “We got 3 or 4 percent; that was great. Thirty percent is completely out of line,” he continued. “There’s a huge disparity in our state. I can try to change it. But, I can’t change it overnight.”
The assistant DA gets paid $104,000, “I’m sorry, this (DA) position is not worth $93,000 more,” Kline said. “It just isn’t.”
Unemployment is 8.2 percent in the county, the poverty rate 18.6 and the average household income is about $47,000, he said. There are some county workers that qualify for food stamps and HEAP, he added.
“That doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
There are county officials not making what the DA position pays, and they have just as many, if not more, responsibilities, Kline told his fellow legislators. “I’m sorry, the wage doesn’t fit. I heard somebody say, ‘well, you know, it is the law.’ I will not support this. It’s not because of me. It’s because of my people in my county!”
Legislator Frank Castiglia also spoke against the resolution.
“It’s not about the person,” he explained. “It’s not about the position. What it is about is a bully telling me what I have to do. If someone asks me to do something, I tend to follow. But when somebody comes down and says, you have to do this…’ I tend to rebel.”
The people of the county (not somebody up in Albany) should be making the decision, he added.
“It is not a law that is giving services to the community. It’s a raise. It’s a mandate that is not being funded. If it was being funded, fine. But it’s not being funded,” he said.
However, Legislator Brad Trudell pointed out that resolution is to comply with state law the way that it is. Legislator Shawn Doyle said he’d support the resolution for the same reason.
The legislators then turned around and approved a resolution calling on the state to re-evaluate and amend the law regarding the salary increase system.
They cited its “detrimental financial impact on counties” and asked the state to “de-link DA salaries from judiciary salaries.”
Copies of this resolution will be forwarded to the Governor, the Minority and Majority leaders of the NYS Senate and Assembly, local state elected legislative representatives and the New York State Association of Counties.