HUDSON — Common Council President Thomas DePietro is asking for a $1 salary for 2021 instead of the $12,500 salary proposed in the budget, he said Wednesday.
DePietro earns $12,500 this year.
“I want the people to know that I understand the dire financial situation the city is in,” DePietro said. “While my salary is a tiny fraction of the city budget, I hope it inspires us all to realize some sacrifices will have to be made until the economy recovers.”
DePietro works as a freelance writer and editor, but has been focusing on government work this year, he said.
DePietro offered lowering his salary to $10,000 at the council’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting, he said.
But DePietro decided last Friday $1 would be enough and proposed the nearly full salary reduction to the rest of the board.
The Board of Estimate and Apportionment consists of DePietro, City Treasurer Heather Campbell and Mayor Kamal Johnson.
No other city employees have asked for salary decreases, Johnson said. Johnson declined to comment on DePietro’s decision.
Mayoral Aide Michael Chameides also declined to comment, adding he focuses his comments on issues directly related to projects he is working on or active projects in the mayor’s office.
Campbell could not be reached for comment.
The proposed 2021 Common Council salaries are the same as 2020’s salaries, DePietro said.
The Majority and Minority Leaders’ salaries are proposed as $5,711 each for a total of $11,422 and the eight other aldermen salaries are proposed at $5,473 each for a total of $43,784.
The council members can receive health insurance from the city and receive a $3,500 reimbursement if they have other health insurance. The cost for the 10 council members receiving the reimbursement of $3,500 totals $35,000.
DePietro also forfeited his insurance reimbursement, he said.
The rest of the Common Council budget covers $2,000 for materials and supplies; $4,700 for updated digital recording equipment, which was approved in 2020 but hasn’t been purchased; $6,000 for printing and advertising; $8,300 for other expenses including secretarial duties, code maintenance, minutes tracking and recording equipment, for a total of $123,706.
No other council members have sought a salary decrease, 1st Ward Alderwoman and Minority Leader Rebecca Wolff said.
“That is awesome if he feels like he doesn’t need the salary,” she said of DePietro’s decision. “I hadn’t heard about it. It seems like a gesture in the time of COVID.”
Wolff heard about people discussing council members not getting paid before she was on the council, but said she does not remember who it was. Others should follow suit only if they do not need the money, she said.
“Not everybody is in the position that they can do that,” Wolff said. “Just like donors, some people have the means to give and some do not.”
Fifth Ward Alderman Dominic Merante donated money to the Youth Department in the past and wondered if DePietro planned to redirect his salary to a specific department, 5th Ward Alderwoman Eileen Halloran said.
“That certainly is his choice,” Halloran said. “It’ll be interesting to see if he can redirect it,” she said.
Merante earmarked a month of his salary to Hudson Police Department youth programming and a month to miscellaneous police spending in his first term in 2018.
This term, Merante earmarked one month in 2020 to help the Youth Department’s food programs.
“I would love to say I’m not going to take a salary, but I’d rather have the ability to give to programs in need,” Merante said.
In 2018, he sponsored two children to go to summer camp.
“I try to use my alderman salary to put back into community endeavors,” Merante said.
He has also donated supplies to the fire department.
“Imagine if I won the lottery, this would be a happy city,” Merante joked.
Merante commended DePietro’s decision.
“It’s an interesting offer, or position, to take,” Halloran said. “I don’t know why he’s not taking the salary, he certainly earned it.”
DePietro is not redirecting his salary to a specific department, he said, so it will go to the city.
The city had a shortfall in revenue in 2020 and faces uncertainty in 2021, DePietro said.
“We can cover this year’s shortfall from our general fund and possibly replenish that fund by selling properties the city doesn’t need,” he said. “The real problem is the 2021 budget. How do you plan for a year of uncertain revenues and at the same time meet mandated cost increases?”