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County legislature approves pay hikes without support from Democrats

Pictured are members of the Chautauqua County Legislature.

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County lawmakers have agreed with the Salary Review Commission and are giving elected county officials a significant pay raise, effective following the next election.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the county executive will be getting a $16,210 raise. In 2024, the executive is scheduled to earn $115,765.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the county clerk will be getting a $17,880 raise. In 2024, the clerk is scheduled to earn $66,853.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2027, the county sheriff will be getting a $10,355 raise. In 2024, the sheriff is scheduled to earn $101,355.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2026, the 19 county legislators will be getting a $5,732 raise. They will also start getting annual raises according to the Consumer Price Index. Currently, legislators get a base pay of $9,000. The chairman gets an additional $8,000. The majority and minority leaders get an additional $1,000. The assistant majority and assistant minority leaders get an additional $500. Each committee chairman gets an additional $1,000 and each ranking member of a committee gets an additional $250.

In 2018, the executive, clerk and sheriff all were given annual CPI raises.

Legislators have not gotten a pay increase in more than 20 years. They are considered part-time and do not receive any health insurance.

The county legislature is made up of 14 Republicans and 5 Democrats. When the time came to vote for each full-time office, all five Democrats – Susan Parker of Fredonia, Bob Bankoski and Marcus Buchanan of Dunkirk, and Fred Larson and Tom Nelson of Jamestown – voted against the raises.

Legislator David Wilfong, R-Jamestown, joined with the Democrats in opposing raises for the sheriff and executive, but not the clerk. Wilfong, who is the majority leader, said he feels the clerk’s pay is too low.

When the time came to vote on giving a $5,732 raise to legislators, Bankoski proposed lowering that amount to $3,000, but his amendment failed. Joining Bankoski on the losing vote were Democratic Legislators Buchanan, Larson, Parker, and Republican Legislator Terry Niebel of Sheridan.

After the amendment failed, legislators returned to vote again on the full $5,732 raise – a 63.7% increase of the current base salary – with all five Democrats voting against it, along with Republican Legislators Bob Scudder of Fredonia and John Penhollow of Stockton.

For the vote to change the county charter and add an annual CPI raise, only two legislators voted against it – Nelson and Scudder.

The salary increases were proposed by the Salary Review Commission, a bi-partisan group formed last year to review the salaries of the four offices.

The Salary Review Commission said it based the proposed increases by comparing the salaries of Chautauqua County to nine similar-sized counties: Broome, Jefferson, Ontario, Oswego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Thompkins and Wayne. The commission took the average pay of the salaries and cut the difference in half.

Throughout the night Wednesday, Democrats in particular said the counties that were used as a comparison were too wealthy and created a false narrative. They also said that since the executive, clerk and sheriff have been getting annual raises since 2018, they don’t need an additional large pay increase.

See Friday’s OBSERVER and Post-Journal with additional comments and reactions to the pay increases.

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