The Smithtown town council would like to give itself a raise but must seek the public's opinion before it votes to do so.

The board will vote at Thursday's meeting to approve a public hearing to be held April 6. By law, the town must hold a hearing before it can give itself a raise.

The salary resolution asks for a $5,470 raise for each town board member, or about 9 percent more than the current $55,818 annual salary. The town supervisor's pay would not be increased.

The idea, Councilman Thomas McCarthy said, is to keep salaries in step with the Smithtown Administrative Guild, a union of town department heads. "The town is extremely fiscally stable," he said. "If we had major problems, that would be a different situation."

Many department heads in Smithtown earn more than the town council; the town clerk, for example, makes $69,616.

Subjecting the raises to a public hearing puts "a lot of sunshine" on it, McCarthy said.

"I say, let's hear what the public has to say," said Councilman Edward Wehrheim, who called the raise the "right idea but timing is not good."

Kevin Molloy, who was elected a councilman in November, said he wants to "listen to the people before I react." While it's never a good time to ask for a raise, he said, he noted Smithtown council members are paid less than those of surrounding western Suffolk towns.

McCarthy notes council members in some towns have their own legislative aides, numerous secretaries and public information personnel. Smithtown's town council has one secretary for all four members, and no other personnel. In addition, the five members, including Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, sit as the site review board and the board of water commissioners, but receive no other salary for those duties, McCarthy said.

In Smithtown, raises usually are handled during the budget process in the fall. Smithtown council members received no raise in 2007, a 14 percent raise in 2008, and a 4 percent raise in 2009. There was no raise budgeted for 2010.

If the board approves its raise after the hearing, residents will have 45 days to file a petition to force a public vote on the raise.

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