North Hempstead town board members would increase their salaries by more than a third under a proposal by the Democratic interim town supervisor -- a move that has prompted questions from Republican council members and residents.
The Democratic-controlled board is slated to vote Tuesday to set a Dec. 10 public hearing on the measure, put forward by interim Supervisor John Riordan, that would raise the salary for town board members to $55,000 a year from $40,000, an increase of 37.5 percent.
The receiver of taxes would get a $25,000 pay hike, to $115,000 -- an increase of 27.8 percent -- while the town clerk's position would increase to $105,000, or 23.5 percent more a year.
The town supervisor would get $138,000 annually, an increase of 3.8 percent over the position's current salary, making the position the highest paid in the town. In the 2013 budget, the deputy supervisor's $136,626 salary surpassed the supervisor's pay by almost $4,000.
"I thought it was something that was needed and something I could accomplish during my brief tenure as supervisor," said Riordan, who was appointed interim supervisor in October and will vacate the position once Democratic supervisor-elect Judi Bosworth takes office in January. "These are very important and complex and demanding positions, and the salaries haven't been raised in a long time."
Riordan said money for the increases, which total $140,000, would come out of the town's contingency fund and would not increase the tax rate or cause the proposed 2014 budget to pierce the state tax cap.
He said he arrived at the numbers after looking at other comparable towns on Long Island. The move would keep pay for North Hempstead's supervisor as the fourth-highest on Long Island, after Huntington, Hempstead and Oyster Bay, while putting the town board's salary at roughly the average for the Island.
But Marianna Wohlgemuth, president of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association, blasted Riordan's proposal.
"Before any salaries are raised, I believe we should wait for the new supervisor to be in place," Wohlgemuth said. "He's not an elected supervisor, and he really shouldn't be proposing this."
Democratic councilwoman Viviana Russell expressed support for the supervisor's plan, but Angelo Ferrara and Dina De Giorgio, the two Republicans on the town board, questioned the timing of the proposal, which comes shortly after this month's election.
"If elected officials are voting to give themselves raises, it's a position they should take before the public goes out and votes," said De Giorgio, who ran for supervisor against Bosworth.
Bosworth did not respond to requests for comment.
Ferrara said he wanted more details on the plan, but agreed that salary increases have been delayed for too long, especially for council members.
The salary for town-board members, who serve part time, was $40,000 in 1989, but was lowered to $30,000 in 1992, when the board voted to cut its own salary by 25 percent under former supervisor Ben Zwirn. The salary went back to $40,000 after the town board voted for 33 percent pay hikes for itself and the supervisor in the 2005 town budget.
"I do believe some raises are in order," Ferrara said. "Who's making the same money they were 25 years ago?"