Dennis protests cut to DA salary pay-back

Gwen Chamberlain

Yates County Legislative Chairman Timothy Dennis says he plans to continue lobbying state authorities to pick up a $30,500 bill that has been paid by the state in the past, but is now dumped on Yates County.

The bill is the $30,500 portion of the District Attorney’s salary that has been reimbursed by the state for the past few years. The DA salary —$152,500 for 2016 — is set by the state and based on recommendations by the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial & Executive Compensation in relation to increases to judicial salaries.

In December, the commission recommended increases in all state judges’ salaries in 2016 and again in 2018. The recommended increase places Supreme Court judges’ salaries at $193,000 this year and $203,000 in 2018. The related increases to district attorney salaries across the state will amount to $1.6 million in the recently adopted state budget, according to the New York State Association of Counties.

In the past, the state would reimburse counties for the incremental increases to the DA salaries. However, this year’s state budget does not include funds for the reimbursement.

Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner brought the situation to the attention of the Public Safety Committee last week, noting that there is funding in the state budget to cover the increased judiciary salaries, but not the DA.

Dennis reported he had talked with the local representative of the governor’s office in addition to Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. “I will continue to fight this,” he said, noting that the salary requirement is only applicable in counties with a full time DA. Dennis said a New York State county with a population under 50,000 is not required to employ a full time DA, but only one county in the entire state does not employ a full time DA.

He said, “This is the perfect ‘poster child’ to take to New York State as an unfunded mandate.”

Other business at the April 11 legislature meeting included:

• Audit: Finance Committee Chairman Douglas Paddock reported the most recent audit of the county’s books resulted in an unqualified opinion with no material weaknesses and no significant deficiences, which he called “very good news.”

According to Yates County Treasurer Nonie Flynn, the audit confirms the county’s total fund balance increased from $13.6 million in 2014 to $14 million in 2015. Of that, the unassigned general fund balance increased from nearly $4.6 million to $6 million. She adds, “Also, of note is that in 2014 we appropriated $1,628,535 toward the 2015 budget and appropriated $739,255 to support the 2016 operating budget, a decrease of $889,280.”

• County Administrator Task Force: Paddock reported the task force has established a job description for a county administrator, and the group would like to hold a workshop with the full legislature to finalize the document. The workshop will be held at 4 p.m. April 19 in the chambers. The position has been vacant since early December, when Sarah Purdy left to take a position with the City of Ogdensburg.

• Broadband Report: Representatives from Southern Tier Network and ECC presented a quarterly report on the dark fiber project. STN is the non-profit organization that owns the network but does not provide services. ECC is the company that is building the network which will be available for internet service providers and other companies to purchase access.

Fiber between Branchport and Penn Yan is complete and is underway between Penn Yan and Rushville. Work will begin on the corridor along Route 14 between Ontario County and Watkins Glen.

They reported the project should be complete this fall, slightly under budget.

• Appointment: The legislature unanimously agreed to reappoint Amy D. Miller to the position of Commissioner of Social Services for a five year term to expire May 15, 2021.

• Historian: Legislators agreed to create and fill a part time historian position that will replace the full time historian position at the time of Fran Dumas’s retirement. Dumas will fill the part time position beginning May 3.