NORFOLK - Town justices in Norfolk have not received more than a 1 or 2 percent pay raise since the mid 1980s and that will not be changing any time soon, following a tense negotiation between two judges and a divided Norfolk Town Board.
The discussion took place during the town boards budget workshop meeting Thursday night as town justices George C. Grubee and Donald G. Lustyik arguing their cases.
The tentative Norfolk town budget for 2014 calls for a $19,300 combined salary, or $9,650 each for Mr. Grubee and Mr. Lustyik. This equals a 2 percent raise from 2013.
The (numbers) are not going to be 100 percent accurate, but in my belief I think the numbers are relatively accurate. We are by volume, within the top five or six courts in the county, by volume. We get reports from the comptrollers office ,and I can provide you that concrete data (Friday) but I dont have it with me right now, Mr. Grubee said.
We are within the lower 20 percent of judges paid. The judges in other towns traditionally get what we split between both of us. Were not looking to be compensated like a town like Canton or Potsdam or (the city of) Ogdensburg because we dont have the revenue here to do it. Were asking for a small piece of it because in the 14 years Ive been here, we havent been receiving that and volume has massively increased, he noted.
Im not picking on anybody here in the room. Im not pointing fingers, and I dont want to isolate the highway department or the town clerk or anybody else and I dont want this to feel that I am. But we produce revenue and the other departments in the town dont produce the amount of revenue that we produce in relationship percentage wise to what is being kept as expenditures in our court office.
The 2013 combined salary for the two judges was $18,920 and they were asking for a $2,000 raise for each justice.
Councilman Robert J. Harvey was one of two board members in support of a higher salary for the judges, something that Mr. Grubee thanked him for.
I know since Ive been in office here that the court here has at least doubled, if not tripled in the amount of people that they have here, Mr. Harvey said. I say we not give them a 2 percent raise this year, and we give them each $1,000 (more) to get them closer to the average.
Mr. Grubee added he did not believe a small raise would negatively effect the taxpayers of Norfolk.
Most of the departments here get their revenue from taxes that come in. Were almost a self-full filling department. Like I said, were not looking to burden the taxpayers and say that we want to get paid $15,000 or $18,000 because that would be a burden on the taxpayers and were not trying to do that, Mr. Grubee said.
We think a small increase like we outlined wouldnt really be unheard of. And the amount of time that we spend here, the amount of responsibility that we have to the people of the town, the amount of responsibility we have to the comptrollers office and to you as boardmembers, its incredible. Just a customary, fair and reasonable wage is all that we would be asking for.
I want to say this very strongly; were not asking to be compensated like other towns that have a larger tax base to draw from. We dont want to become a burden on the taxpayers, he added.
Town Supervisor Charles A. Pernice explained that he would want a breakdown of salaries for other town justices before making a decision. Mr. Grubee said that he could provide that information.
A motion was made by Mr. Harvey to give Mr. Grubee and Mr. Lustyik an additional $1,000 raise. This motion was seconded by Councilman Kevin Enslow.
Im not calling for a vote until we know what (the raise) does to the tax cap. I am not going over the tax cap to give somebody a raise, Im not going to do it, Mr. Pernice said.
Town budget officer William E. Dashnaw, who was in attendance, informed Mr. Pernice that the proposed raise would not push the town over the tax cap. The overall tax rate, however, would increase from $4.6807 per $1,000 to $4.6833 per $1,000.
The board took a vote, with Mr. Harvey and Mr. Enslow in favor of the raise, and Mr. Pernice, Councilman Donald I. Purvis and Councilwoman Jean Gang casting no votes.