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Ithaca moves to potentially raise common council salaries

Members of Ithaca's Common Council are likely to get a raise under changes proposed under laws changing the city's new governance structure.
Vaughn Golden
Members of Ithaca Common Council are likely to get a raise under changes proposed under laws changing the city's new governance structure.

Common Council is proposing increasing the salary of common council members to just over $17,000 as part of a set of local laws being considered to change the city’s management structure.

The motion passed 6-2 earlier this week, though the decision is not final and will be subject to another vote, likely at Common Council’s September meeting.

The salary figure for common council members was arrived at by factoring about 18 hours of work per week at the projected living wage of $18.26 an hour.

Alderperson Tiffany Kumar says the increase is meant to make it possible for low-income residents to consider serving on the council.

"How can we elect a council that truly reflects our community if only those privileged enough to afford it can run?” Kumar said. “It's either that or we have council members working multiple jobs just to live in this city, unable to dedicate even part-time hours to the critical work that we do here."

Others like George McGonigal cautioned that the increase is a significant raise, and one that trickles down to taxpayers.

The city will appoint a city manager to serve as its chief officer next year. The salary range for that position was set last week at $160,000 to $185,000 yearly. That individual will take over many of the responsibilities currently carried out by the mayor.

The mayor currently makes $61,000. The mayor’s new salary is proposed as $30,000, which was arrived at by roughly factoring 1.75 times an alderperson’s salary. Council debated and failed to agree on setting the mayor’s salary at twice that of alderpersons.

Alderperson Robert Cantelmo, himself a candidate for mayor, recused himself from the discussions.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.