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Boston Board in disagreement over officials salary raises

BY: Matt Sargeant | November 16, 2012

BOSTON — A public hearing regarding the town of Boston’s 2012 – 13 budget proposal generated no comments from the public in attendance at the board meeting on Nov. 7, but Supervisor Martin Ballowe and the board members expressed their opinions, when it came time to approve the elected officials’ salaries.

While Ballowe, the board members and Town Clerk Jennifer Mule’ are budgeted for the same pay rate from years previous ($22,640; $7,770 and $43,515 annually, respectively), the two town justices and Superintendent of Highways Robert Telaak are scheduled to see an increase on next year’s paycheck. The justices will make $15,656 each, while Telaak is slotted for $54,545, in 2013. The last two figures were challenged by councilmen Larry Murtha and Gary Vara.

“I want to be consistent, with the same way I was with the highway contract,” Murtha said. “I’m against raises, at this time. These are tough times. I think it’s time for us to acknowledge that.”

Vara said, “I voted ‘no,’ based on the same premise [as Murtha] that I voted against the highway contract. I did not vote, based on only these salaries present here. I’m glad the parks department guys got raises. I did not vote against that. With the way the economy is, I just had to be consistent with my vote.”

Ballowe defended the raises, saying, “I can appreciate everyone who works in the town and does a great job. When I walked in the door, we were overstaffed [and] nobody took the initiative to watch the budgets and how the town’s money was spent. We decided not to fill four positions in the town, which was a cost savings.”

He said that, by looking at how town dollars are spent and budgeted, Boston cut taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“[Cutting taxes] doesn’t go by just one person,” he said. “That goes by each department saving money [and] watching how money’s spent. I don’t have a problem with a cost-of-living raise. The cross-training that these people do [to] work through these building and these departments is fantastic. Not one person works in one department. Whenever a hand is needed, they move over. It’s a win situation. When you can keep good employees and you can keep employees happy and having them cross-trained in different areas, it’s a win for our town.

Ballowe said that Boston paid down debts, going “from a losing proposition on the troopers’ barracks, where the rent wasn’t really covering the loan, to a winning proposition, where now the rent in 25 years will make the town over half a million dollars in rent.”

He said that he does not have an issue giving a “little raise” to the people he said he sees working very hard. “If you compare our salaries to other towns around us, we are the lowest-paid town around. We did salary comparisons. I appreciate the hard work that everybody does. It’s not a one-man operation. It’s an operation of 50 people.

“I think the budget is a good, good, solid, conservative budget,” he added. “When you can go these days and not raise taxes, as you see with other towns, school districts, counties, states – and our town doesn’t raise taxes for three years in a row and actually cuts them a little? It’s a win-win for us. It’s a win for the citizens of the town.”

Ballowe said that, because he takes his job very seriously, he closely watches what is spent and “I hope that everyone else would do the same. So I don’t have a problem with the budget. I appreciate your hard work, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. And beside me saying that, the other way is to give you a cost-of-living raise. So when you say it’s time to give it a cut, I got to totally, totally disagree with you.”

Councilman Jay Boardway said that he also supported the raises. “The vote that was taken at that point in time was simply on the elected official salaries,” he said. “Just to clarify, and these numbers are available, when the supervisor took office three years ago, he reduced his salary by 20 percent. It was a promise that was made by him. He remains at that same level. He has never taken a raise since he has been sitting behind this bench.

According to Boardway, the councilmen’s salaries remain at $7,770, per year. “We have not taken a raise. Councilmen [Jeff] Genzel and myself I can speak for. Because we were not legally allowed to reduce our salary by 20 percent, unless the other councilmen agreed to do the same thing – and they refused – [we] donate that additional 20 percent to worthwhile causes in the town.

“Our newly-elected town clerk, in fact, did not take a raise. There’s no increase in her salary. The town justices received a very small raise. That’s two judges we have. It’s a little more than $30,000 in salary that they get as a combination between the two of them, yet the court office in this town brings in revenue of over $190,000 a year, to this town. That’s a very small price to pay.”

Boardway also defended the raise that Highway Superintendent Robert Telaak received, after calling that employee’s job in town “fantastic.” According to Boardway, Telaak has eliminated $800,000 worth of debt in his office, during the past four years and “additionally is woefully underpaid. He’s paid less than the highway superintendent in Eden, in Colden, in Aurora ... every town around us. He is still not on par, even with this small raise, this year. So that was the vote that was taken place, that [Murtha and Vara] voted ‘no’ to. Those two raises in there, they’re miniscule, compared to the amount of work that these people do, for our town.”

Ballowe clarified that Telaak will receive a 4 percent raise, instead of a 3 percent one for 2013. He had been scheduled for a 3 percent raise in 2012, but a “clerical error” resulted in his earning a 2 percent raise, this past year. “To be fair and on par with everyone else, we gave [Telaak] 4 [percent] this year,” Ballowe said.

“I think, to sort one person out, you don’t realize how important the highway superintendent is, that he not only does that but he does the parks department,” Ballowe added. “He lends all his guys to the parks department. We would have to sub all that out and I’m sure you guys all know about prevailing wage, being here. I’m sure that you can understand that ... when you start subbing work out, it gets the taxpayers’ money eaten up, very quickly. So, instead of doing that, he’s nice enough to bring his equipment over [and] do it that way. He doesn’t have to do that, by law.”

Despite the disagreements, the salaries passed by a three-to-two vote, without any public comment.

In other board matters:
– The approved a special permit for 6752 Mill St., subject to a few conditions, in regard to the installation of a propane tank. The board asked that bollards be put up around the tank, that a chain-link fence be constructed around the property and that the site itself be cleaned up, to match the town’s site plan.

“As the planning board liaison, I have seen this project from the beginning,” Genzel said. “I have no problem with a company expanding and trying to make more money in this day and age, especially after the election.” He said that he and the town’s planning board would like to see safety bollards placed completely around the propane tank. “This is to benefit the public so someone doesn’t drive into it. There are quite a few tanks that have chain-link fences. I understand the lockbox on this tank is the security for this tank, but the planning board did suggest a chain-link fence around the facility, to keep away children, adults [and] anybody that might be tinkering around with it. My other concern was that the site doesn’t match the site plan.”

– Concluding months of deliberation, the board unanimously voted to approve the service award points for the Patchin Fire Company. “I think I got this all cleared up,” said Ballowe. “We’ve got it all taken care of.”

– The board carried a motion to approve a lease agreement between the town and Black Rose Kennels, a dog shelter located at 6153 South Abbott Road in Orchard Park.

– Joyce Jensen announced her resignation from the nutrition program, via a letter to the board. “I thank you for giving me this wonderful part-time employment,” she said. “This program is certainly a worthy endeavor for the senior citizens in the town of Boston.

– Code Enforcement Officer William Ferguson wrote that his department “does not object to granting [Kenneth] Taylor an additional accessory building storage.” He said, “The size and location of the accessory building meet the requirements of the Boston Zoning Code.” The storage building will be located at 9665 Lango Road.

The board will reconvene on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the town hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road in Boston.

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