Yonkers City Council considers pay raises for council members and mayor
The Yonkers City Council is expected to begin the process on Tuesday of moving forward two bills that would raise salaries for board members and the mayor. The process would begin just over a month after Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano was elected to an unprecedented fourth term and after council members Tasha Diaz and Mike Breen were both re-elected.
According to the agenda, Spano's annual salary would go from $156,100 to $228,500 for a 46% increase.
“The chief executive’s compensation for one of the biggest cities in New York state has remained flat for 20 years. The City Council supports a change in salary to reflect the cost of living and place it more in line with other top elected officials across the state. Even then, this raise is well under two percent a year," wrote a spokesperson for the mayor's office in a statement to News 12.
The increase would put Spano's salary among some of the highest elected officials in the state below New York City Mayor Eric Adams ($258,000) and Gov. Kathy Hochul ($250,000) but above the leaders of some of the state's other largest communities including City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown ($178,000), Westchester County Executive George Latimer ($160,000), and City of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh ($130,000).
Yonkers City Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy said, if approved, the mayor's new salary would make him the 228th highest-paid Yonkers city employee, up from where he currently sits at 1,090th.
The council is also expected to consider a second bill to increase the City Council president's salary to $88,000, Majority and minority leaders to $73,000, and each city council member's salary to $58,000. Each council member would also be entitled to a $15,000 stipend for serving as a committee chairperson.
"We did the fairest [thing] and made sure we had the money in the budget to cover it and we didn't go too far," said Collins-Bellamy.
According to the latest public data from the city on employees' 2022 salaries, Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy currently makes $75,770, Minority Leader Mike Breen makes $63,000, Majority Leader Tasha Diaz makes $61,847, Council Member Corazon Pineda-Isaac makes $54,155, and council members John Rubbo, Shanae Williams, and Anthony Merante all make $53,001.
The median household income in Yonkers is $78,208, according to the latest census data.
Collins-Bellamy said the last time the City Council's salary was raised was in 2015. She added the money for the proposed raises was included in the fiscal year 2023-2024 budget.
The residents News 12 spoke with were split on the issue.
"I don't know about [the] politics but I can see he's doing a good job," said Yonkers resident Junior Suarez.
"I just saw the amount of the increase and I thought it was ridiculous," said Yonkers resident Rita Cody.
Paul Wolf, the President of New York Coalition For Open Government, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for better transparency in government, said, "The process to raise elected official salaries should be transparent and provide the public a meaningful opportunity to be heard."
He directed people to look at the City of Buffalo where a Citizens Salary Review Commission must be formed and report their recommendations to the council by May 1 before the council votes in June. The mayor has to hold at least one public hearing before approving the local law and there must be an election before the raises go into effect, so the public knows where each council member stands regarding a pay raise before the election.
"We don't take a position on the amount of a pay raise. I think that's something that should be decided by each community, but we do take the position that process matters, and a transparent process is critical," said Wolf.
Critics of the proposals raised concerns about the timing of the raises and the possibility of a quid-pro-quo for voting to extend term limits in November 2022.
Collins-Bellamy denied those allegations.
"Some were suggesting that this is possibly like a reward for voting 'yes' on term limits but even individuals who voted 'no' for term limits and eligible and entitled to this raise," said Collins-Bellamy.
Any changes to elected officials' salary needs a public hearing which would likely take place in January, according to the mayor's office. If approved, Spano would have to sign off on the changes or wait 10 days after the two bills passed for it to automatically become law.
Tuesday's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.