At the regular Tuesday meeting of the Yonkers City Council on Dec. 12, six of the seven members voted to approve historic pay raises for themselves and Mayor Mike Spano. Preceding the vote, a handful of residents expressed their dissatisfaction with City Hall’s self-enrichment.
By the numbers
The adopted pay raises are the first in a long while. It’s been eight years since the City Council saw a raise, and almost two decades for the office of Mayor. For these past years, Mayor Spano earned $156,100 annually. The council salaries vary by position, with the base pay for these part-time jobs being $48,000, the Majority and Minority Leaders earning $63,000, and the Council President making $74,000 per year. Each member then received a $5,000 stipend for chairing a committee.
Effective January 1, 2024, the council members will in total receive compensation of over 20% more. And the Mayor sees the largest jump with a 46% increase (or roughly 2% a year since the last adjustment). Assuming each Council Member gets the new $15,000 stipend for serving as chair of a committee, the below chart defines their annual income.
|New Annual Compensation
|City Council President
And while these new rates take effect for the City Council in the new year, the Mayor additionally gets a retroactive $72,400 check for the difference dating back to the start of 2023.
In the media
The Yonkers Ledger first covered these proposed raises only hours after they appeared on the Council’s agenda published Friday afternoon. Days later, other news organizations picked up the story and provided even more details. David McKay Wilson of Journal News/LoHud spoke with some members including Shanae Williams who admitted, “We wanted to give the mayor a raise in June, but he said he wasn’t comfortable receiving it then.” That rejection was presumably to avoid this ethics discussion in the middle of the mayor’s re-election campaign.
Following the news coverage, some residents contacted City Hall via email and social media to express their displeasure at these large tax-payer funded pay raises.
I am so unbelievably tired of Yonkers government.Caroline Stern – Yonkers resident
The criticisms persisted as the Council meeting commenced in-person that evening.
In the chamber
The customary “Committee of the Whole” saw four residents stand at the podium in front of the Council to plead for a rejection of these pay increases. While the amount of the raises was acceptable to some, the manner in which this change occurred, and the massive retroactive check for Mayor Mike Spano, faced universal condemnation. Familiar speaker at community meetings, Eileen O’Connor, summarized the feeling by saying, “that [it] boggles my mind” and “to go after retro pay seems greedy.”
Yonkers Public Schools special education teacher and former mayoral candidate, Margaret Fountain-Coleman, was also incredulously puzzled. She rhetorically asked the council why it seemed so quick and simple for them to raise their own pay, while the teacher’s union contract negotiation seemed to drag on endlessly throughout the year.
But, the most noteworthy speaker may not have been because of his words, but because of his former position. Mike Khader lost his re-election bid as City Council President to Lakisha Collins-Bellamy in 2021. Now, he seems to have returned to the political arena and taken aim squarely at his former (and perhaps future) political rival. He stated that under the current Council President’s tenure, “the only notable achievements are the extension of term limits and a self-imposed pay raise.”
The council comments
The lone vote to reject both the raises for the Council and Mayor was Republican member from the sixth district, Anthony Merante. The Certified Public Accountant echoed the people’s sentiment that the Mayor’s $72k retroactive check was untoward. And that the council should not vote for salary increases for itself, only for the officers elected after it. He quipped to his current colleagues and to those potentially seeking office that, “if you don’t like the salary, then don’t run.”
Member Williams, Pineda-Isaac, and President Bellamy all spoke in support of the salary increases noting the countless hours they spend on their duties. However, even Pineda-Isaac noted that she did not feel comfortable with the Mayor’s retroactive pay provision in the local law.
A public hearing
With the Council votes cast, the legislation now moves to the Mayor’s office for his signature. By law, a public hearing must be held preceding this, and the administration stated this will happen sometime in early January. After those comments, the Mayor may choose to allow the changes to become law by signing them, or simply waiting 10 days for their automatic adoption. He may also choose to veto the pay raise and retroactive pay, thus sending it back to the City Council. But, there have be no signs that officials in local government aren’t eager to see these new, bigger numbers in their own paychecks.