By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has pledged to feel his constituents' fiscal pain this year by donating 5 percent of his salary to the city's general fund.
The move came as Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) announced the Council would cuts its own budget by 1 percent for the fiscal year beginning July 1 in face of the city's projected $3.4 billion budget deficit.
“Right now the city is undergoing a huge fiscal crisis,” said Avella in a phone interview Monday. “People are being asked by the government to accept certain hardships such as the increased transit fare and the increased property tax. I don't think it's appropriate for me as an elected representative to place the burden on New Yorkers without accepting some of the burden on myself.”
Five percent of Avella's $90,000 yearly salary would constitute a $4,500 gift to the city. The councilman was not sure whether it would come in the form of a reduced salary, which may not have a legal precedent, or a donation to the general fund. But he vowed nonetheless to part with the money in two installments this calendar year.
“I have not heard from the mayor at all as to what the procedure is,” said Avella, who made his offer in a letter to Miller and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The councilman said he has not received a response from either so far.
To his knowledge, none of his colleagues in the Council had followed suit. Avella promised to repeat the 5 percent giveback if he is re-elected to another two-year term.
This is not the first time Avella has voluntarily lowered his salary. He has twice turned down the $8,000 stipend, called a “lulu,” that he could have earned as chairman of the Council's Zoning and Franchises Committee.
Asked whether the decision to give back part of his salary came at the suggestion of constituents, Avella said no.
“This is my own personal feeling,” he said.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.