If you ran an agency that couldn't pay its bills, would you give its employees raises?
That's what the people running the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District did.
The district owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back property taxes to municipalities and school districts. Fulton County is preparing to sue the district for $1.7 million in delinquent property taxes. Hamilton County may sue the regulating district for three years of unpaid taxes totaling $120,000.
The regulating district has struggled financially after it lost one of its main revenue sources when a court ruled it no longer could charge fees to downstream hydropower companies.
The regulating district, which controls the Great Sacandaga Lake, is stuck in a difficult and unfortunate situation, and state officials should step in to fix the problem. Until the district finds a solution, should it be handing out raises?
At an April 10 regulating district board meeting, the district approved roughly 3.75 percent raises for seven people. Two other employees, the executive director and the Hudson River area administrator, received considerably higher raises because they previously were promoted.
The public should be aware of the salary levels. Among the increases, the executive director's pay went from $74,213 in 2011 to $100,425; the Hudson River area administrator's pay went from $57,049 in 2011 to $70,040; the chief engineer's went from $90,913 in 2011 to $94,322; the general counsel's from $92,500 to $95,969; the chief fiscal officer's from $87,150 to $90,418; the operations engineer's from $70,530 to $73,175; the Black River area administrator's from $69,630 to $72,241; and the Black River area field superintendent's from $64,118 to $66,522.
Those salaries are quite healthy at an agency that says it can't pay its taxes. In the private sector, some companies struggling through the slow economy have frozen pay levels for years and even reduced them.
The regulating district, a public-benefit corporation, performs an important function and its staff has gotten smaller, but we wonder about the wisdom behind increasing salaries at this time.