Northampton County Council Thursday night overwhelmingly defeated a proposed ordinance that would have increased the county executive’s salary by $10,000 per year beginning in 2014.
The proposed ordinance, which was defeated by a 7-2 vote, would have increased the county executive’s salary from $85,000 per year to $95,000 per year, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
Since council defeated the ordinance, the entire next four-year term of the county executive, which begins in 2014, will continue at a yearly salary of $85,000 per year.
County statute requires the yearly salary of the county executive to remain the same for an entire term. The county will be led by a newly elected executive come 2014; current County Executive John Stoffa is not seeking re-election.
The defeated ordinance had also called for increasing the council president’s salary by $300 per year.
Council members who voted against the ordinance said they could not justify such salary increases during these difficult economic times.
“In this economy, people are losing jobs. It’s ridiculous to look at giving more money to ourselves,” Councilman Thomas Dietrich said.
The two council members voting in favor of the proposed ordinance were John Cusick and Ken Kraft.
Cusick, the council president, said a $95,000 annual salary for four years is fair, especially when considering the county executive oversees a $300 million budget and 2,000 employees.
Cusick noted that several township and borough administrators around Northampton County have higher yearly salaries than the county executive, as well as 37 county employees.
During the public hearing on the ordinance, Ron Angle, a former county councilman, objected to the $10,000 increase. “How can you consider this when we’re in a recession,” he said.
Angle claimed the increase was on the table to possibly encourage two potential candidates to run for the office, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan and former County Executive Glenn Reibman.
Councilwoman Margaret “Peg” Ferraro said she believes the current $85,000 per year salary will still attract good candidates for the office.
“People who run for county executive are not doing it for the money,” she said. “You don’t run for this for the dollars.”
The other salary increase listed in the defeated ordinance, for the council president, had been proposed to cover traveling expenses, since the council president is responsible for attending many more meetings than other council members, according to Kraft.