If these 1978 salaries were adjusted just for cost of living, our local county officials would be bringing home a lot more bacon today. Northampton County Exec Stoffa would be paid $107,000 and his Lehigh County counterpart, Don Cunningham, would gross $92,000. Northampton County Council members would receive $12,000 salaries instead of the current $7,000. Lehigh County Commissioners would bring home $7,600 instead of $5,500.
Northampton County alone has an annual budget of $316 million, but the $65,000 annual salary paid to its top administrator is actually lower than the salary paid to members in his own cabinet. When Stoffa was recently asked what he thinks a county exec should be paid, his answer was "at least $100,000."
After all, you get what you pay for, bippy. Although many local leaders will tell you they're here to serve, a glance at their campaign expense reports makes you wonder just who they're serving. Let's face it. Our current salary structure is designed to attract political hacks looking to advance themselves, and zillionaires who've lost touch with the common man. I've heard many very qualified private businessmen, state legislators, and others simply state they could not afford to live on the meager wages paid to local elected officials.
At last Thursday's Council meeting, Northampton County Council quietly introduced an "Elected Officials Salary Ordinance," which will raise salaries for the next executive ($65,000 to $85,000), council members ($7,000 to $9,500), and controller ($39,000 to $50,000). A vote on this ordinance is scheduled for August 17.
Problem solved, right? Not exactly. The increases proposed are still way below what is needed to attract quality candidates.
And here's another problem, at least in Northampton County. How can elected officials even consider giving themselves a raise when many of its rank and file employees have been struggling without a wage increase for three years? What kind of message does that send? After massive layoffs to help pay for the judges' Taj Mahal, employee morale has been in the tank. Although a salary increase is definitely needed for elected officials, their first priority should be the county's backbone - row office employees who are actually doing the work. Real leaders would take care of struggling employees before thinking of themselves.
First things first.