The city’s tax assessor, who was hired two years ago, has received a 36.6-percent salary increase bumping his pay from $78,030 to $106,575. Richard Marra, the tax assessor, was hired in 2012, for a salary of approximately $75,000, according to a city official.
“You’re increasing that salary by 36-percent?” asked Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. “Any reason for that?”
“That was his approved salary by DCA [New Jersey Department of Community Affairs],” said Nellie Pou, business administration. “DCA approved that salary.”
“That doesn’t mean we have to pay a tax assessor that amount of money,” added Alex Mendez, councilman at-large.
Pou alluded to the city’s previous tax assessor, who she said, moved on due to poor pay. “Our last tax assessor barely stayed here because he moved on to a different position paying a lot more,” said Pou.
She also said the city wants to ensure there are no hiccups with the city wide tax revaluation that is nearing completion. “He’s the only certified, licensed tax assessor we have in that office,” said Pou.
Morris said if the tax assessor is such a qualified individual why is the city being inundated with commercial tax appeals. “We’ve been getting hammered by successful commercial tax appeals,” said Morris. “There seems to be a disconnect between this highly qualified individuals and the fact we’re getting hammered by these tax appeals.”
The revaluation that is underway should correction that problem, answered Pou. Another council member did not buy the qualification argument. “I think we should bring that salary down to $90,000,” suggested Mendez.
“You have employees in those positions earning a particularly salary,” said Pou. “You cannot arbitrarily reduce their salary.”
Council members thought Marra was currently making $78,030. “I thought this was the recommended salary for 2015. I didn’t realize this salary was already in place,” said Morris.
“How is it that he’s making that salary?” asked Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman. “In two years he’s going to go from $75,000 to 106,000? That is a tremendous salary increase year over year.”
City records show Marra’s salary was $78,030 earlier in the year; however, that salary increased after mayor Jose “Joey” Torres assumed office on July 1st, 2014.
“Is the tax assessor salary set by ordinance?” Morris asked Pou during the finance department’s budget hearing last Wednesday.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” responded Pou.
“I need an answer to that question,” said Morris.
Pou said she will collect an answer and get back to the councilman.
“If he’s salary is set by ordinance, I don’t recall seeing an ordinance before the council for that salary adjustment to be made, so how could that happen?” asked Morris. If the council did not approve an ordinance increasing the tax assessor’s salary, it should have remained $78,030, said Morris.