The Lansing Town Council began its early discussions on the 2021 town budget on Sept. 28, and one topic that was brought up for discourse was increasing the wages for town employees to a number closer to, if not at, the average minimum living wage in Tompkins County.
The county’s rate is $15.37 per hour for full- and part-time employees, not including health insurance. As of 2021, the town’s rate is around $13 an hour. Councilwoman Bronwyn Losey raised the proposal for increasing the rate at the meeting.
“Looking at our bottom line, that wouldn’t have a major effect at all, but I just feel like that would be the right thing to do,” Losey said. “If people are working for the town, I think they should be able to have that be a part of actually being able to support their families.”
Charmagne Rumgay, town Bookkeeper and Personnel Officer, brought up the fact that very little if any people get hired at the positions that offer minimum wage in the town.
“Right now, the rec assistants make, for 2021, they will make 13 an hour and the director makes 17.26,” Rumgay said. “We always stay at that same level and just give the percentage increase.”
“Nobody’s there, and almost nobody gets hired there either,” she said. “It’s just a structure to use as a tool.”
Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne said the majority of the people who would work at those positions would only work part-time, so the job would not be their primary or sole source of income.
“Some of these will be part-time people … and maybe that’s the only job they have, maybe that’s the only job they want,” LaVigne said. “That’s the other part about it. I think when you look at this in-depth, one size doesn’t fit all.”
Losey said regardless of whether or not the town currently employees any workers on its minimum wage salary, the council should still consider increasing the rate for possible future employees.
“Just increasing it so the bottom is more like $15 an hour, which when it comes to the budget, it’s going to have minimal effects because two of those are currently vacant and drop-in unfortunately isn’t opening yet,” she said. “I think it shows a certain amount of respect for folks that we’re asking to do really hard work.”
“I’m thinking that even if there’s nobody at the minimum hire rate right now, having that be a minimum living wage would be a nice thing to move towards,” she said.
Councilman Joe Wetmore supported Losey’s position for increasing the wage rate.
“I would like Lansing to be certified as a living wage employer,” Wetmore said. “If we up that number to 15.37, we would qualify, and I don’t think it would affect the budget significantly.”
In order to become a living wage employer, according to the criteria from the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, one must pay $15.37 per hour to all regular full- and part-time employees, with the exception of the following:
?Youth employed during the summer
?Part-time employees under 18 years of age
?Employees under probationary status of no more than three months,?
?Employees hired on a temporary basis of three months or less?
?Workers who are paid by others
Employers may not have to pay a living wage depending on the costs of health insurance and certain benefits being offered to employees.
An employer must also pay $17.37 per hour to all independent contractors that it already pays an hourly wage. An employer must not present any known health and safety or any other labor violations at the discretion of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center’s Leadership Team.
LaVigne asserted that the town respects its employees and that he has not received any complaints about wages. He also suggested that the council look into a “step program” next year for possibly increasing the wage.
“A lot of the time you have these step programs where people can move up a step plus this year’s 2.5 percent to allot to a 6.5-percent raise,” LaVigne said. “There’s a lot of places that don’t get a 6.5-percent raise, especially if you look at the cost of living index amongst other things.”
“I would like to have that discussion next year in-depth and see if we are going to change it, what the process is,” he said.