By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Winners of this November’s municipal elections in the City of Tonawanda will have a little something extra to celebrate.
The Tonawanda City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the mayor’s salary by $10,500 and councilmember stipends by $1,000 beginning in 2014.
The mayor’s salary will be increased from $32,000 to $42,500, and the council members will receive $8,500 per year instead of $7,500 per year.
Residents took to the microphone at the council’s meeting Tuesday to protest the body’s unanimous approval of pay increases for the mayor and council.
“I don’t think anyone in the community would get that percentage increase,” Roger Puchalski said. “I don’t think it’s justified.”
Council President Carleton Zeisz’s compensation will remain at $9,000, as his position, unlike the rest of the council’s, is not up for re-election.
Officials cannot vote to raise their own pay directly. They can only increase it for those taking office after the next election, meaning residents taking umbrage with the raises will have a chance to weigh in on the lawmakers who approved them before they take effect.
In response to resident concerns Tuesday, Zeisz said the mayor’s salary has not been increased since 2002, and that if his salary was increased every year in line with other city employees, the mayor would be making closer to $46,000 or $47,000.
Councilman Blake Boyle also supported the increase.
“It was recommended by a group of people that had nothing to do with this,” Boyle said of small group of politicians and residents who came up with the recommendation. “It is a good compensation rate.”
Zeisz also said that although the percentage increase of council members’ compensation is high, it is the first time it has been increased in 26 years.
“I never asked for any raise,” Debbie Puchalski said to the council during public comment session. “I don’t think you should either.”
Jeff Schultz, of the city’s electrical department, also attended the city’s work session to discuss removing the broken light on Adam Street near St. Francis School. He supported the council’s opinion that the city should not replace the light, as it would cost $15,000 to $20,000.
“There are other intersections that really need to be worked on,” Schultz said, citing intersections on Morgan, Grove and Main streets where the money could be better served. “That is the safest school crossing in the city. It’s one way, its 15 mph.”
“(Students) never cross on their own, and they always have a teacher with them,” Boyle said.
At the last city council meeting, Councilman Richard Slisz was in favor of replacing the light for the safety of the students, but he was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Schultz also proposed a new sign to be placed in front of the CSX Bridge on Young Street. The sign shows a black truck with a red circle and strike over it. The bridge has been hit by numerous trucks after drivers missed or ignored signs warning of the low crossing.
“This one draws more attention,” Schultz said.
The council also set the rental fees for the Niawanda Park Pavilion. The fees will be as follows:
• For city residents Mondays through Thursdays: $150
• For city residents Fridays through Sundays: $300
• For non-city residents Mondays through Thursdays: $200
• For non-city residents Fridays through Sundays: $350
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150