The pay increases for senior Islip officials that Supervisor Angie Carpenter characterized as “outlandish” at a meeting last week were given earlier this year and are not awaiting approval in the town’s 2017 tentative budget.
Carpenter’s comments came ahead of the town board voting last Tuesday to pierce the state-mandated tax cap, with a 9.9 percent increase in town taxes proposed in the $223.5 million tentative budget.
“The 2017 budget that I have proposed does not call for the outlandish pay increases erroneously reported to the media,” Carpenter said at the town board hearing on Tuesday.
According to town records, the salaries of five employees were adjusted on Jan. 24, two months after the 2016 budget was passed last November.
The salary of Department of Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens, who also runs the Parks Department, went from $101,000 to $146,000. The salary of Director of Labor Relations Arthur Abbate, who is also the town’s personnel director and safety officer, went from $90,000 to $120,000. Comptroller Joseph Ludwig’s salary increased from $101,000 to $120,000.
Director of Industrial Development Bill Mannix’s salary went from $101,000 to $115,000. Environmental Control Commissioner James Heil’s salary increased from $101,000 to $108,000. Tax assessor Anne Danziger started with a $101,000 salary last September and her salary went to $120,000.
Three other employees who were new hires or moved positions within the town administration were hired at salaries higher than their predecessors. Ron Meyer was promoted to commissioner of the Planning Department from his position as deputy commissioner, and paid $120,000 starting March 8. Long Island MacArthur Airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose Arken started her job on May 31 with a $130,000 salary. The previous planning and airport commissioners both earned $101,000.
Chief of Staff Tracey Krut earned $105,000 starting Jan. 4 after she was promoted from executive assistant with a salary of $83,000.
In an interview, Carpenter said these salary changes are already funded and do not affect the proposed 2017 budget or require tax hikes.
“The tax hike which is coming through — if the budget is approved in November — is not being done to get the money for these adjustments,” she said. The funding for the salary increases came from unfilled positions and unpaid benefits, she said. Much of the funding was transferred at a Jan. 20 public board meeting with the approval of a majority of the town board.
Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt criticized the raises as unnecessary.
“Angie handed out double digit pay raises to dozens of employees, then looks to the taxpayers to foot the bill. It’s simply unacceptable at a time when so many families are struggling,” she said in a statement after the hearing, and pointed out that she was absent at the Jan. 20 board meeting where funds for the raises were approved by the rest of the town board.
Carpenter defended the salary increases as a proactive move to keep the best talent because Islip has historically paid less than neighboring towns. “We’re looking at the positions and trying to right them to where they should be,” she said in the interview, and added “If you don’t compensate people properly, they’re gonna go.”
At the tax cap public hearing Tuesday, dozens of people spoke about the raise in taxes in the budget, which includes a separate tax increase for residents of the Bay Shore Fire District and the Fire Protection District because of a $10.9 million bond for the Bay Shore Fire Department to renovate and buy new equipment.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of piercing the cap, with Bergin Weichbrodt voting against it. The budget vote will be held on Nov. 10 at a 10:30 a.m. hearing at Town Hall.