Who’s taking raises on the Riverhead Town Board?

01/03/2013 12:00 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (from left), Councilman John Dunleavy and Supervisor Sean Walter in Town Hall.

A majority of Riverhead Town Board members are getting raises in 2013, with Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio the only board members not to take a pay increase for 2013.

At least, that’s according to resolutions approved by the Town Board on Wednesday.

Some board members are offering different explanations for what they’re actually taking — and why.

While Councilman John Dunleavy said he would take the raise to bring his salary more in line with other town council salaries in nearby towns, the other two council members whose salaries went up said they would give the money back or refuse the raise.

According to the approved resolution, Mr. Dunleavy, George Gabrielsen and Jim Wooten will make $48,955 in 2013, a 2.85 percent increase from their salaries last year.

Ms. Giglio’s salary was unchanged on the resolution.

The board’s salaries were included among nine resolutions setting salaries for town employees in 2013. All nine resolutions were approved unanimously — 4-0 with Mr. Gabrielsen absent — at the Town Board’s meeting Wednesday.

While Mr. Dunleavy said board members should not be “undervalued,” Mr. Gabrielsen, who is away on vacation in Florida and was not at Wednesday’s meeting, and Mr. Wooten both said they would not take the raise.

“I’m going to call over to [town financial administrator] Bill Rothaar right now and tell him I don’t want the 2.8 percent,” Mr. Gabrielsen said, adding he had proposed a pay cut for all board members in an amended budget last year, but the measure was rejected.

He later said that, after speaking with Mr. Rothaar, he “absolutely” won’t be taking the raise, adding “that was my intent all along.”

Mr. Wooten said his salary on the resolution was increased to match Mr. Dunleavy’s increased salary so that future elected officials would not have uneven salaries.

“Why should a councilman coming in for the first time be less than another councilman?” Mr. Wooten said. “Really, all councilpeople should be payed the same.”

Mr. Wooten said he had spoken to Mr. Rothaar previously and would be separating the extra money from his paycheck each month. He said he would then donate the money to the Riverhead Town Senior Center.

In 2012, all four councilpeople made $47,598. Last year, the board members’ salary increased by 51 cents, according to town resolutions.

The board members’ salaries were not changed in 2010.

Mr. Dunleavy said the Town Board is underpaid compared to neighboring towns.

“I think we do a valuable service for the Town of Riverhead,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “We have a lot of responsibility and if you take that seriously then you should take a small raise.

“I’ve spoken to people and people have said, ‘[Councilman] is not a part-time job, this is a full-time job,’” Mr. Dunleavy said. “We don’t want to undervalue ourselves.”

The supervisor’s salary was last raised significantly in 2009 by about $2,000 under previous supervisor Phil Cardinale. Mr. Walter’s salary increased by 78 cents in 2011.

Both Mr. Walter and Ms. Giglio said they didn’t feel it was right to give themselves raises.

“When I got elected here it was never my intention to make all my money here,” Mr. Walter said Wednesday. Mr. Walter is a practicing attorney in Wading River, and said he meets with clients after work hours or on weekends.

“The 3 percent [raise], it’s not a big deal [to me],” Mr. Walter said.

Ms. Giglio said she disapproved of U.S. Congressmen giving themselves raises and said she wouldn’t copy that same practice in Riverhead.

She said she would consider taking a raise in the future if the town makes progress on subdividing and selling land at the Enteprise Park in Calverton and with that, increasing revenues, and if the general economy improved.

psquire@timesreview.com