On Thursday, March 8th during the regular meeting of the Legislation Committee, the members discussed impanelling a compensation advisory board as mandated by the Westchester County Charter. The Charter calls for the creation of the board every other year to review the salaries and committee stipends paid to legislators. The advisory board is comprised of citizen volunteers who receive no material compensation for their service. The last time the compensation panel was convened was in 2008.
After a period of debate, the Legislation Committee by a 5-1 vote declined to create the advisory board as directed by the Westchester County Charter. Legislator Sheila Marcotte (R-Eastchester) was the only member of the Legislation Committee who cast a vote in favor of creating the panel. The next opportunity for citizen-input on Legislators compensation will be in 2014, six years after the panel was last convened.
Legislator Marcotte, who is Vice Chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, in addition to her membership on the Legislation Committee argued in favor of the panel, noting that the current economic climate and across the board spending cuts in departments throughout county government should dictate that the Board of Legislators solicit the counsel of county residents in determining their own base salaries or stipends for committee chairs and caucus leaders.
"I understand that my colleagues who voted not to create the compensation advisory board are conceding that we as Legislators will not and should not be receiving raises this year but that doesn't mean we shouldn't invite the public to take a look at our compensation to determine if it is appropriate given the very serious fiscal challenges we are facing in Westchester." Marcotte added, "Nowhere in the Charter does it say that the advisory board can only recommend pay raises. A notion that we heard repeated time and again during budget season was that we are operating in a time when we must 'do more with less'. Maybe this group of citizens would share that perspective and challenge us to follow our own advice." Marcotte concluded, "Impanelling a group of regular citizens to review our compensation levels should not be an option we choose only if we think it might be time for a raise in our pay. This is about engaging the taxpayers who fund our salaries and being responsive to their concerns and opinions. Shutting the public out of this process sends the wrong message to our constituents and denies us their very important perspective."