Counties asking state to cover DA raises


Gazette Photo by Thomas Giery Pudney
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario speaks about the importance of mandate relief for small counties. NYSAC and DAASNY hope for a return of state funding for mandated District Attorney raises.

With just days to go in the legislative session county officials and prosecutors are urging the Assembly to pass a bill that will help counties pay for mandated raises for their district attorneys.

By New York State Judicial Law, salaries for district attorneys are linked to the salaries of judges in the county. This means that when a judge receives a raise, the county is responsible for funding a raise for the district attorney as well.

In 2015 the state Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation voted to recommend an increase in state judge’s salaries in 2016 and 2018.

Traditionally, these raises were reimbursed to the county by the state, funded by an allocation in the state budget. The bill (S.519, Young/A.751, Gunther), which has passed the Senate and now resides in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, would provide $1.6 million to counties to cover the expense of these mandated raises.

“Although the need to cover these state mandated salary increases for district attorneys was recognized by the state for many decades, it has not done so for the past two years,” said Thomas Zugibe, the Rockland County district attorney and president of the District Attorney Association of the State of New York. “This has stressed the budgets of many upstate counties, that in many cases are unable to absorb this unanticipated cost.”

“The Assembly needs to step up to the plate and pass this legislation in the two weeks they have to do it,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “The state can’t have it both ways, blaming us for high property taxes and then passing on new costs, doing little to reduce the costs of existing mandates.”

The property tax cap, which limits property tax levy to 2 percent per year, has not been as tough of a hurdle to clear for larger counties as it has for smaller, more rural, upstate counties. Chenango County District Attorney Joseph McBride, who spoke at the press event Tuesday, said his county is facing the possibility that 25 percent of this year’s property tax levy go towards DA raises.

“Unfortunately, not all 62 county budgets have the ability to fund this mandate,” said Sandra Doorley, the Monroe County District Attorney, “Smaller counties, with lesser tax bases have not been able to support these increases. That is not fair or equitable.”

The Senate bill was passed on May 22 and has been in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee since Jan. 9.