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Dems Ram North Hempstead Pay Hikes Through

Town council members to get 22.5 percent pay increase in 2014, other elected officials to receive more.

Interim North Hempstead Supervisor John Riordan listens at a public hearing in Manhasset, Dec. 10, 2013. (Credit: Rich Jacques)
Interim North Hempstead Supervisor John Riordan listens at a public hearing in Manhasset, Dec. 10, 2013. (Credit: Rich Jacques)
A resolution pushed through by North Hempstead town board Democrats Tuesday will significantly raise pay for elected officials, despite calls to delay the vote on the issue until a new supervisor takes over next month.

The pay hikes, instigated by interim Supervisor John Riordan in the final days of his brief tenure as an appointed official, will substantially increase salaries for council members, the town clerk and receiver of taxes. A $5,000 pay increase was also suggested for the supervisor position.

With the decision, pay for part-time town council members will be $49,000 next year, a 22.5 percent increase. The town clerk will receive a 25 percent pay increase to $105,00 per year. The receiver of taxes will be paid $115,000, a 27.8 percent hike.

Riordan was voted into office in October by other town council Democrats following the resignation of longtime Supervisor Jon Kaiman.

An amendment to Riordan's proposal was introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, who requested $49,000 in annual pay for town council members — $6,000 less than what Riordan proposed.

By a 4-2 vote, Kaplan's amendment was approved along party lines following a lively public hearing in Manhasset.

Just before voting herself a hefty pay raise, Kaplan described town council service as "a labor of love." 

At the hearing, few residents questioned the need for discussion regarding salary increases which had not occurred in North Hempstead in nine years, but most criticized the hastiness of board members who would not delay the pay raise vote until after Jan. 1, when a new supervisor will take over.

In a letter read by Riordan at the hearing, Supervisor-elect Judi Bosworth broke weeks of media silence regarding the pay hike proposal, requesting that an amendment not include a proposed $5,000 raise for the supervisor's position.

Even without the pay raise next year, Bosworth is set to more than triple her salary as an elected official. She currently earns $38,500 working "full-time" as a Nassau County legislator. The longtime politician will make $133,000 as supervisor.

Some were not impressed with Bosworth's offer, or with the board's actions.

"What I hear is an incoming supervisor who wants to step away from this mess," said Albert Khafif of Westbury, who called the timing of the pay raises "disingenuous."

Donald Peshkin of Port Washington said with lots of people willing to run for office at the current pay rate, there is no reason for a pay increase.

"If any of you can't do your jobs in the way it's supposed to be done, at the salary you are getting paid now, I respectfully say step down," said Peshkin to board members.

Riordan said he requested the pay raises because North Hempstead salaries had fallen behind those in nearby towns like Huntington and Hempstead.

Residents countered, noting that officials from other towns are paid more because they represent more people per council member.

A large majority of the dozen or so residents who spoke asked that the vote be held over until Bosworth takes office.

"Let the new supervisor decide how to proceed," said Eric Zausner of Flower Hill.

Siding with Kaplan, one resident justified the need for a pay increase for "a labor of love," and a commitment. "And I think by all means you deserve to have the Town of North Hempstead catch up to where it belongs," said Dennis Grossman of Great Neck.

The $140,000 needed for the salary increases will come from the town's contingency fund.

Opposing a vote on the pay hikes before the new town board takes office next month, Republicans Dina De Giorgio and Angelo Ferrara dissented.

If the board were doing the "right thing," they would be voting unanimously in favor of a pay raise Jan. 7, said Ferrara. "But unfortunately, politics gets in the way and I hope you remember that."

"If we vote on this now, we risk losing the respect of the public," said De Giorgio. "Putting it over doesn't lose anything for us."

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