GOP Dutchess lawmakers to donate raises

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POUGHKEEPSIE- Members of the Dutchess County Legislature are scheduled to receive a $477 raise in 2021 while county employees will not be receiving raises due to financial woes created by the pandemic. Thirteen lawmakers are pledging to donate their raises to charities of their choice.

In 2019, the prior legislative body approved a three percent increase for the 2021 calendar year. The 2019 action scheduled legislators’ salaries to be raised from $15,914 to $16,391. State and Dutchess County laws prohibited the current legislature from changing their own salary in the 2021 county budget.

Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver, Budget and Finance Chairman Will Truitt, and Majority Leader Donna Bolner circulated a pledge to their colleagues and are publishing an open letter to county residents. Each legislator was offered an opportunity to join the pledge. Signatories, all Republicans, are pledging to donate their 2021, $477 salary increase to Dutchess charities.

“Our county employees are the best in the state,” said Chairman Pulver. “Time and again they have proven to be innovators, savers, devoted, and dutiful while they carry out their work for the residents of this County. This budget was tougher than usual and although the near future looks hopeful but still uncertain, employee raises were not able to happen. It isn’t right that legislators receive a raise and employees don’t so a few of us teamed up with this idea. I am involved with a group that provides a full Thanksgiving and Christmas meal in Northern Dutchess and I’ve never seen the need this high. Every day, our neighbors are struggling with food insecurity and children go to bed hungry- I’m glad to bring attention to this issue and I hope others join me.”

“During budget deliberations, something wasn’t sitting well with me,” said Budget Chairman Truitt. “We were about to ask our employees to take on more than ever, but we weren’t able to offer raises. I received a legal opinion that we couldn’t change our salaries, so I knew the right thing to do was to pledge to donate my 2021 raise. Our local food banks have big hearts and want to serve everyone they can- but they need financial help. This Holiday Season we all need to reflect on our blessings and help those who have been most affected by the pandemic.”

The open letter to Dutchess County residents reads:

This year has been more difficult than any of us imagined. While we believe the light at the end of the tunnel is approaching, we all must continue to do our part to protect the health of our family, friends, and community.

 Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the 2021 County Budget was more challenging than usual. The difficult decision was made to not give County employees a salary increase for the 2021 calendar year. Our finances this year simply did not allow for increases this year, especially considering there are those in our community who are out of work or are struggling financially. We greatly value our employees and we know they work hard every single day for everyone in Dutchess.

 In 2019, the prior Legislature established salaries for the 2020-21 term of elected legislators. When the increases were passed, the economy was in excellent standing and a 3% increase seemed reasonable- obviously now we find ourselves in different circumstances. There has been discussion of removing salary increases from legislators for the upcoming year, however, State and local laws prohibit the Legislature from changing our own salaries.

 In order to do our part and stand next to our employees, the undersigned of this letter pledge to donate our 2021 $500 salary increase to Dutchess County charities. 

We wish everyone well during the Holiday Season and hope you stay safe.

Gregg Pulver, Chairman
Donna Bolner, Majority Leader
John Metzger, Assistant Majority Leader
Will Truitt, Budget and Finance Chair
Steve Caswell, Legislator
Joseph Cavaccini, Legislator
Faye Garito, Legislator
Ed Hauser, Legislator
Deirdre Houston, Legislator
Tom Keith, Legislator
Doug McHoul, Legislator
Lisa Paoloni, Legislator
Michael Polasek, Legislator
Don Sagliano, Legislator
Alan Surman, Legislator