On behalf of the state's 57 counties, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC)
has called on the State Legislature to pass a chapter amendment to the 2016-17 State Budget that would require the state to pay the costs with mandated district attorney pay increase.
"This is a quintessential state mandate. The state raised the salary of an elected county official and they are making local taxpayers fund it," said NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County treasurer.
On Dec. 24, the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Compensation voted to recommend increasing all state judge salaries in 2016 and 2018. The recommended increase placed Supreme Court judges' salaries at $193,000 in 2016 and $203,000 in 2018 and placed County Court Judges at 95 percent of a Supreme Court Justice's salary. On April 1st the State approved the Commission's recommendation.
State Judicial Law 183-a links judicial salaries with county district attorneys' (DA's) salaries, requiring DA's salaries to be equal or higher than either the County Court Judge or Supreme Court Judge in a county, depending on full or part-time status.
"This is unprecedented," said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. "For over 50 years, the state has paid for every DA salary increase mandated on counties. It has always been a fundamental issue of fairness. The state has historically funded these salary increases through the state budget."
On April 1, the State adopted a budget that is more than $150 billion statewide, but did not include the approximately $1.6 million for counties to fund the DA salary increases. Interestingly, the state also did not include a general fund allocation for the judges' salaries, forcing those raises to come out of the Judiciary budget.
The raise will cost each county approximately $30,000 in funds not allocated from their 2016 county budgets -- a cost of approximately a third of their total allowable property tax cap growth for all government operations in 2016.
"This was an unintended consequence of the demands of meeting an on-time budget, and it can be fixed with a simple chapter amendment that can be passed when lawmakers return in May," Cherry said.