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Thread: When did ‘stipend’ become misunderstood?

  1. #1
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    When did ‘stipend’ become misunderstood?

    Resident David Rinow appeared again at Monday evening’s Lancaster town board meeting questioning and commenting on elected officials stipends; their purpose, use and misuse.

    The individual focused on the ‘stipend’ Highway Superintendent Amatura receives for his ‘oversight’ in the Parks / Recreation Department. The individual believes he is not deserving of that ‘stipend’ nor the stipend he receives as Drainage Coordinator.

    His reasoning is that the Parks /Recreation Department doesn’t need two department heads. He considers parks crew chief Barbaro as a department head. It has been made clear recently that Barbaro is not a department head. Yet, Barbaro does control the budget operation and performs management operations. The same can be said of DCO Karn and until recently she was not considered a department head.

    Mr. Rinow also declared Amatura performs no drainage work. His crew does all the work. If Amatura did not manage the crew and assign work orders, who would take on this responsibility? Is this operation part of his job description as Highway Superintendent?

    Regardless, the words stipend, salary and compensation are often used interchangeably to denote renumeration for services provided:

    Stipend

    a fixed regular sum paid as a salary or allowance – compensation

    Salary
    fixed compensation paid regularly for services provided

    Compensation
    payment for services provided

    Call it what you may, it is all compensation that is awarded for services provided. Mr. Rinow stated that some ‘stipends’ are awarded by law. The Town Clerk, by law has to also be the Records Management Officer and Registrar of Vital Statistics and is compensated as well for being the Clerk to the Zoning Board. Payment for services provided!

    In the bargaining unit (union contracts) what should we call items like police shooting pay, briefing pay? Stipends, or perks. What about longevity pay?

    Since when has stipend become such a dirty word – unless compensation is rendered without any legitimate service provided. What are the consequences of not paying Amatura for services provided outside his job description?

  2. #2
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Chowaniec View Post
    Resident David Rinow appeared again at Monday evening’s Lancaster town board meeting questioning and commenting on elected officials stipends; their purpose, use and misuse.

    The individual focused on the ‘stipend’ Highway Superintendent Amatura receives for his ‘oversight’ in the Parks / Recreation Department. The individual believes he is not deserving of that ‘stipend’ nor the stipend he receives as Drainage Coordinator.

    His reasoning is that the Parks /Recreation Department doesn’t need two department heads. He considers parks crew chief Barbaro as a department head. It has been made clear recently that Barbaro is not a department head. Yet, Barbaro does control the budget operation and performs management operations. The same can be said of DCO Karn and until recently she was not considered a department head.

    Mr. Rinow also declared Amatura performs no drainage work. His crew does all the work. If Amatura did not manage the crew and assign work orders, who would take on this responsibility? Is this operation part of his job description as Highway Superintendent?

    Regardless, the words stipend, salary and compensation are often used interchangeably to denote renumeration for services provided:

    Stipend

    a fixed regular sum paid as a salary or allowance – compensation

    Salary
    fixed compensation paid regularly for services provided

    Compensation
    payment for services provided

    Call it what you may, it is all compensation that is awarded for services provided. Mr. Rinow stated that some ‘stipends’ are awarded by law. The Town Clerk, by law has to also be the Records Management Officer and Registrar of Vital Statistics and is compensated as well for being the Clerk to the Zoning Board. Payment for services provided!

    In the bargaining unit (union contracts) what should we call items like police shooting pay, briefing pay? Stipends, or perks. What about longevity pay?

    Since when has stipend become such a dirty word – unless compensation is rendered without any legitimate service provided. What are the consequences of not paying Amatura for services provided outside his job description?
    Excellent post Lee.



    Have a GREAT day,
    Georgia Schlager

  3. #3
    Member mark blazejewski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Chowaniec View Post

    Since when has stipend become such a dirty word...
    For me, since Supervisor Ruffino's first agenda item, of the first Town Council meeting under his direction, requested that the Supervisor's stipend for Budget Management duties be reinstated, that's when.

    I do not presume to speak for Mr. Rinow, or any reader on this forum, but to me, "stipend" is not a dirty word. Rather, in the present Lancaster world, I consider it to be near-synonymous with, or code for, "hypocrisy."

    Ron Ruffino, in 2019, ran as "the most fiscally conservative" candidate for Lancaster Supervisor; IMHO, a frustrating misrepresentation of historic circumstances. That 2019 representation remains contradicted by the many previous years of his high tax and spend liberal voting record.

    Whatever the practices of past Supervisors, the town's compensation for the Supervisor's position, as present legally and broadly understood publicly, during the 2019 general election campaign simply did not include a Supervisor stipend for budget management issues-period.

    Councilman Ruffino must have known of that exclusion throughout the course of the 2019 campaign.

    Therefore, I believe that if he sought to reinstate, or create, which ever term the reader prefers, such a stipend, that intention should have been unambiguously expressed to the voters during the 2019 campaign.

    To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Ruffino expressed no such intention.

    In fact, touting as he did, a resume focused on his self-described conservative spending "history" and his heartfelt conservative philosophy, is it any small wonder that many voters feel that they were deceived during the 2019 campaign?

    I could pontificate that in the private sector, workers frequently are subjected to compensatory ups and downs.

    For example, when I joined the Laborers in 1973, our rate of pay was nearly $9 per hour. We had complete top-notch health care, a 100,000 life insurance benefit, extra compensation for inclement weather, generous over time pay, and a myriad of protections concerning weight limits and other potential hazards. Mortar mixers received an extra twenty-five cents and hour, and had an adjusted quitting time .

    Our 1975 contract gave us very little in cost of living raises and saw the decline of the "golden parachute" contract(s) with the removal of many of the pre-existing protections and benefits. Many did not like the new agreement, but it was accepted without loud complaint or worker retaliation.

    I think the reader understands the point I am trying to make.

    To be sure, in the private sector, the work may remain the same, or actually increase, even though the compensation may decrease. In that private sector world, in the words of my father who was a SOB of a boss: "If you don't wanna work, go home!"

    In the public sector, many may liken such a turn of events and supervisory attitude to worker exploitation and abuse. In that connection, I am of the opinion that it is particularly offensive when someone is elected to office on a public confidence to honor its campaign pledge to be "the most fiscally conservative candidate," only to, post-election, complain about the office's compensation, and urgently seeks to prioritize its remediation.

    (It is particularly offensive to me when I hear an elected official remind us of his ala carte duties, rather than the full dinner we ordered, so to speak. May I suggest an effort to unionize elected officials? See how that works out for everyone.)

    Ergo, what troubles me, are the underlying suggestions of deception and hypocrisy. To be sure, my general view of stipends is rather in-congruent to the current Lancaster circumstances which impact my concern.
    Last edited by mark blazejewski; February 11th, 2020 at 08:07 PM.
    "Ronnie, get to work and get the agenda going."---"The Handler"

  4. #4
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    Hey Mark:

    We are looking at compensation from different perspectives. While I may agree that Ruffino fussed about his not being able to bring back the $5,000 Budget Officer compensation, he had every right to make his case that he is being underpaid – when not only compared to other municipalities, but to Supervisor compensation paid in the past.

    He requested the Budget Officer compensation be added into the budget as it had been reinstated in 2019 and removed in the 2020 budget. You are spot on when you say that he knew what the position paid in the 2019 budget and incorrectly assumed the compensation would be at least the same in the 2030 budget. It was not. The Supervisor position had no salary increase and the Budget Officer compensation was removed. He did vote ‘no’ on the budget, but in all the time it was under review he did not bring the matter up.

    He tried to amend the budget at the Organizational Meeting, failed to get the votes to approve the addition of the Budget Officer compensation back into the budget, failed and should have moved on.

    Unfortunately, he publicly whined.

    However, the great majority of Lancaster residents have no idea what led to today’s Supervisor compensation controversy – and to Ruffino’s credit his displeasure with his current $71,098 compensation package. Looking back at the Supervisor compensation structure:

    2004 (Giza)

    Salary as Supervisor – $61,273
    As Budget Officer – $6,684
    Total - $67,957

    2006 (Giza)

    Salary as Supervisor – $65,000
    As Budget Officer – $7,092
    Total - $72,092

    2009 (Giza)

    Salary as Supervisor – $71,028
    As Budget Officer – $7,250
    Total - $78,778

    2012 (Giza)


    Salary as Supervisor – $74,441
    As Budget Officer – $8,122
    Total - $82,563

    2013 (Fudoli)
    Salary as Supervisor – $66,997*

    As Budget Officer – $0
    Total - $66,997

    2016 (Fudoli last year in office)


    Salary as Supervisor – $66,997
    As Budget Officer – $0
    Total - $66,997

    2019 (Coleman)

    Salary as Supervisor – $71,098
    As Budget Officer – $5,000**
    Total - $76,098

    2020 (Coleman)

    Salary as Supervisor – $71,098
    As Budget Officer – $0
    Total - $71,098

    *Fudoli campaigned on reducing the Supervisor salary by 10%, eliminating the Budget Officer compensation and giving up the town provided vehicle.

    **The only year Supervisor Coleman added the Budget Officer compensation to her budget (2019).

    The current Supervisor’s compensation is $71,098. It was highest in 2010 at $82,563. It was lowest under the Fudoli administration at $66,997. Today’s Supervisor position has gone down by over $10,000 since 2012. No other town employment compensation has been lowered in that timeframe – rather increased measurably.

    Ruffino had to know the stats, yet he campaigned for this position – and with the mantra of promised fiscal conservatism. However, when an estimated 20-25% of full-time town employees earn more than the Town Supervisor, he has the right to claim that he is underpaid – IMHO.

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    The Lancaster Sun published a lengthy report on the ‘stipend’ controversy taking place at recent Lancaster Town Board meetings. It reported on resident Dave Rinow again questioning Supervisor Ruffino on the legitimacy of stipends paid to the Town Clerk, Highway Superintendent and Supervisor Ruffino as Budget Officer.

    Rinow declared that the stipends paid to Town Clerk Terranova were justified. He questioned the justification of Highway Superintendent Amatura’s stipends paid for Parks/Recreation/Forestry/Buildings oversight position and Supervisor Ruffino’s quest for Budget Officer compensation. He contended that Amatura and Ruffino knew what their jobs paid and should not be double-dipping.

    Rinow has every right to seek clarification from the town board membership on any issue/item. It is the responsibility of the board to provide a credible answer. Supervisor Ruffino did not provide one.

    Regarding Amatura’s Parks/Rec./Forestry/Buildings oversight compensation, Ruffino should have alluded to the agreement signed between the town and Mr. Amatura on May 5, 2015 which empowered him with department oversight and conditions of that agreement. In that agreement, Mark Lubera was designated ‘crew chief’. Ms. Barbaro is a crew chief.

    Mr. Rinow could then have asked for documentation revealing contract negotiations between the town and elected officials receiving said ‘stipends’, their legitimacy, intent and cost implications. Instead of attacking the ‘stipend’ recipients, it is the program in place that should be questioned. If these so-called ‘handouts’ were not in place, what would it cost the town to hire outside support?

  6. #6
    Member gorja's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Lee Chowaniec:
    Rinow has every right to seek clarification from the town board membership on any issue/item.
    Yes, Mr Rinow does have every right to question anything regarding town matters.

    Mr Rinow is only interested in making this political. He's not interested in the truth


    Have a GREAT day,
    Georgia Schlager

  7. #7
    Member mark blazejewski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Chowaniec View Post
    The Lancaster Sun published a lengthy report on the ‘stipend’ controversy taking place at recent Lancaster Town Board meetings. It reported on resident Dave Rinow again questioning Supervisor Ruffino on the legitimacy of stipends paid to the Town Clerk, Highway Superintendent and Supervisor Ruffino as Budget Officer.

    Rinow has every right to seek clarification from the town board membership on any issue/item. It is the responsibility of the board to provide a credible answer. Supervisor Ruffino did not provide one.
    Lancaster Sun, February 13, 2020...

    "Amatura questioned why Rinow didn't come to him directly to address any concerns."
    If The Sun is reporting Superintendent Amatura's comments accurately, I think that his words are rather bizarre.

    As I understand the purpose of the public participation forum of the Town Council's public session, resident in participating municipalities, is intended to give the public an opportunity to question elected officials, and to scrutinize their duties and decisions in an open and transparent exercise, under the watchful eyes of an audience of concerns citizens of all political persuasions, and presumably an unbiased and watchdog press.

    Mr. Amatura's comments tend to devalue, or perhaps even de-legitimatize that public forum, and lend support to a rather closed process, lacking in transparency, under the strict control of the public official.

    More troubling, Mr, Amatura comments may be considered by some, as a not-so-subtle attempt at grassroots resident intimidation, perhaps aimed at discouraging the public from participating in a forum which exists to hold officials publicly accountable.

    I personally to not view such public participation forums as an arcane public pillory, but a more sophisticated apparatus, an x-ray.

    Just my two cents.
    Last edited by mark blazejewski; February 14th, 2020 at 10:04 AM.
    "Ronnie, get to work and get the agenda going."---"The Handler"

  8. #8
    Member mark blazejewski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gorja View Post
    Yes, Mr Rinow does have every right to question anything regarding town matters.
    Agreed Gorja.

    Quote Originally Posted by gorja View Post
    Mr Rinow is only interested in making this political. He's not interested in the truth.
    Mr. Rinow is only interested in politics?

    What of Supervisor Ruffino and Highway Superintendent Amatura?

    No politics there, eh?

    "Move along, nothing to see here folks," as the saying goes.

    In fact, many residents feel that the incomplete remedy of the sewer pipe upgrade was disingenuously representedfor political reasons, as a full corrective measure during the 2019 campaign for Supervisor.

    Also, did not Mr. Amatura take the rather unusual step of using the weight and prestige of his office to put a metaphorical thumb on the scale for Mr. Ruffino during the 2019 campaign?

    Furthermore, did not Mr. Amatura permit permit videos in support of the Ruffino campaign to be taken on the site of the Highway Department facilities?

    Moreover, did not Mr, Amatura usurp the Supervisor's legally prescribed role as presiding officer of the Town Council to advocate for a work session to conform to his own personal tastes and standards?

    A little politically self-serving, eh?

    Is that not the same Mr. Amatura who seemingly diminishes the purpose of the public participation forum of the public Town Council session in favor of a closed setting and format, that he would exclusively control, and which would seemingly go undetected by a watchful public and press?

    Therefore, the assertions by the Highway Superintendent that frivolously dismiss Mr. Rinow's questions as politically motivated, would appear to smack of hypocrisy. In my opinion, it is the High Superintendent who appears to have weaponized, by seeming intimidation, the public participation forum against concerned residents.

    Indeed Ms. Gorja, it is rather unfortunate that The Sun chose to focus only on the back-and-forth concerning the issue of stipends, because Mr. Rinow's questions also related to the public safety issue of water pressure.

    Mr. Rinow's questions seemingly brought to light the on-going public safety problem, and served to shed light on its existent state.

    These comments by a stakeholder in the water pressure issue attendant to the Stutzman Rd.-Pleasantview Dr. area, were made in part resultant from Mr. Rinow's non-stipend remarks of February 10, 2020

    ... Mr. Rinow approached the board last night about the water issues:The water lines were on the list to be upgraded when I spoke at the end of a town board meeting in summer 2017. I was presenting a petition that neighbors in the Stutzman Road area signed expressing similar experiences with their water.

    A year well before the fire, then Supervisor, Johanna Coleman asked Mr. Schiller when the lines would be upgraded and he did not know but said that they were slated to be done. They weren’t bonded for at that time was my understanding. She also asked him if the pressure could be increased at that time and he said, “yes” albeit what appeared to be uncomfortably. I did not know why at that time.

    In September 2018, Coleman is quoted in a Buffalo News story as to not having any knowledge of water pressure issues in this part of town. That was not true. The board was made aware in summer 2017.

    When our lines were replaced we were expecting at least a small increase and at the summer 2017 meeting, Mr. Schiller made no attempt to say that higher pressure could not be attained as a result of the upgrade. In the most recent Buffalo News article, he states that “a lot happens to pressure once the water leaves the street”, presumably setting up an excuse that it is the fault of residential plumbing and not a municipal responsibility.

    I can assure you that I have had many plumbers out to check this issue out and they could find no problems.

    Then my husband and I started talking to the neighbors (thus the 2017 petition) and come to find out that many people were experiencing the same thing. It has taken years of calling and speaking to various people at the town level as well as ECWA to come to the conclusion that this upgrade would not in fact increase pressure. This was explained to me by a distribution engineer at ECWA. He said any effect could be positive or negative and it would in his opinion be negligible.

    He then ordered flow studies on a new hydrant at 11 Stutzman in October 2019. I saw an ECWA employee checking pressures within two days of my phone conversation with the engineer from ECWA. I was told I would receive an email of the report but not to expect it too soon.

    I waited two months, contacted the engineer again. He sent me an email saying that the test was being reassigned to another engineer. Nothing ever happened.
    No report has been made available. Also since late summer 2019, I had been in touch with WM Schutt’s office about the issue and I was told to wait and see after it was all said and done.

    They sent out a worker to do a static flow test on one of my hose bibs. The measured pressure before water line replacement was 37 psi. After replacement, the static test measured 30 psi. The worker had me turn on a couple faucets and the pressure dropped to 15 psi with NO RECOVERY while more than one faucet was on. The worker told me that basically the pressure is what it is and I would have to deal with it.

    No one from Schutt’s office ever addressed this with me and that is why I reached out to someone at ECWA.

    A developer also wants to put 24 homes up on a fully surrounded (by existing homes) parcel between Stutzman and East Home. With every development our neighborhood has seen in the last approximately 20 years, we have had a corresponding decrease in water pressure. So now what? Fire in 2018 on Pleasant View across the street from Stutzman and 24 MORE houses!

    The town needs to start doing right by their taxpayers!!
    Last edited by mark blazejewski; February 14th, 2020 at 11:26 AM.
    "Ronnie, get to work and get the agenda going."---"The Handler"

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