Financial Focus: A City Council Pay Raise

Anthony RivieccioFinancial Focus: Making Pay Raises Fair to Council Members and The People of New York
by Anthony Rivieccio, PFA, MBA

It would be fair to say our New York City Council members have been very busy this past year. From reviewing City Rezoning Plans to hiring more police officers to Participatory Budgeting to wanting to decriminalize public urination, the City Council has been in the thick of all things municipal.  Now comes word that a cabal of Council Members have been plotting how to engineer a SEVENTY-ONE PER CENT pay raise. That’s right,  71%! The champions in the ‘Fight for $15’ want to raise their puny salaries from $112,500 to $192,500. That’s almost a one-fifth of a million dollars for street-naming and ribbon cutting duties, attending twice monthly Stated Meetings, and occasional committee hearings.

The high salary demand infuriated Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who called it an “outrage.” Lynch was in the midst of licking his wounds over a state arbitration ruling that awarded his union members an annual one per cent salary increase for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for the City Council to seek a raise of this magnitude while New York City police officers are expected to settle for 1%,” fumed Lynch

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, facing potential media backlash, immediately said that amount was “ridiculous”, but did not rule it out saying, “I will leave it up to the commission” .

The independent Quadrennial Commission, a three-member body that Mayor Bill de Blasio convened in September, is mulling raises for the Mayor, City Comptroller, Public Advocate, the five Borough Presidents and all city lawmakers.  The Commission is expected to make its recommendations by the end of the year. Mayor de Blasio has said he won’t take a raise during his current term of Council. Council Members have remained silent.

To be fair, Council Members have not had a raise in ten years. And although, nearly all receive on average $8000 stipends (“lulus”) as Council leaders and committee chairs, they do deserve a base salary increase. But first, we must ensure that our Council Members are full time, conflict-of-interest free and earn a reasonable inflation-adjusted salary. So, what’s fair?

Let’s get started.

1) Amend the New York City Charter to make Council Members Full time
It’s funny! If you ask them, they would tell you they work 12 hours a day with no overtime. That sounds like everyday America! So let’s start treating them as such.

2) No Outside Income
A Daily News review found that 40 of 51 Council members report zero outside income — and most of those who do report outside income only pocket only small sums as adjunct professors or part-time lawyers. So some would tell you that this is not a problem. In my view, a ban on outside income means no conflict of interest. Whether college professors or lawyers, their main focus should be on their full-time responsibilities as Councilpersons.

3) No Bonuses (or lulus)
There is no justifiable reason for an elected City Council member to receive a bonus on top of his/her salary for being a Committee Chair.

4) Playing Ten-year Catch up
In the last decade, Council Members have had no raise. Well, if we apply the federal inflation rate of 2% a year, then salaries should go up 20%. Using an inflated adjusted methodology, Council Members should earn $135,000 today. That might not go over so well when an arbitrator gives rank and file New York City police officers a mere one percent raise.

5) A New Beginning: 2022
Any raise – regardless of how big or small – should only apply to City Council members, who take office Jan. 1, 2022, the first term after the council term limits controversy. That way, you almost ensure total new conflict free membership. We said above that Council members salaries should start at $135,000, year 2015. If we presume inflation for the 7 year difference, at 3%, you are looking at a new inflation adjusted increase of $163,350.

6) Beyond 2022
The next Quadrennial Commission should simply peg Council salary adjustments to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If inflation adjusted raises are good for both seniors and most city employees, it is most certainly good enough for Council Members.

So there you have it! My proposal offers a 17% salary increase from 2015 to 2021 or a 2.4% annual increase for the next 7 years. Our esteemed Council Members base salary would rise from $112,500 today to $163,350 by 2021. And thereafter, Council salaries would be inflation-adjusted.

Perhaps, the Quadrennial Commission will accept this fiscally sound salary plan that neither busts the City Budget nor brings opprobrium upon our hardworking City Councilpersons.

Anthony Rivieccio is the founder & the CEO of The Financial Advisors Group, celebrating their 18th year as a fee only financial planning firm specializing in solving one’s financial problems. Anthony, a recognized financial expert since 1986, has been featured by many national and local media including: Klipingers Personal Finance, The New York Post, News12 The Bronx, Bloomberg News Radio, Bronxnet Channel 67 TV, The Norwood News, The West Side Manhattan Gazette, Labor Press Magazine, Financial Planning Magazine, WINS 1010 Radio, The Bronx News and The Bronx Chronicle.

For financial inquires or assistance, Anthony can be reached at (347) 575-5045 or

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