After expressing opposition to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ salary ranges for department directors, the city council is set to introduce exact salary amounts for each department head prior to Tuesday’s confirmation hearings.
Torres’ administration wanted to set salary ranges of $92,000 to $130,000 for each of the directors, but the council balked at that proposal opting for a discussion on the department head salaries.
The council’s finance committee chairman Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said the precise salaries are based on an earlier city ordinance that set specific salaries for department directors rather than ranges.
The salary would be set for a period of four years for the directors; however, the department heads will be given cost of living and longevity increases in parity with unionized city employees. “That annual salary could change based on longevity and cost of living increases,” said Morris.
“What the administration was proposing at the last meeting was not only do we have salary ranges, but they’d have the full discretion to increase those salaries without any oversight of the council,” said Morris.
He said if the administration wishes to reward a director for exceptional work it can bring forth a resolution with supporting documents like performance metrics and seek a salary increase from the council. Council members will then, based on records provided by the administration, either approve or deny an increase. Morris said the council will also have a chance to determine whether the budget would support an increase at that time as well.
The council would like to have advice and consent on salary increases, said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. He said the council suggested ranges in the past, but along with it were performance metrics that set criteria for increases.
“You don’t want wide gaps where the administration is unrestricted in how they would apply those increases without any further input from the council,” said McKoy.
“These are very difficult fiscal times and we’re going to have to justify to the taxpayers why we’re going to approve increases,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. He said the council should look at the 2004 and the 2006 salary ordinances before setting exact salaries for department directors. “I want to see what the starting point was; I don’t want to arbitrarily select a number.”
“We’re already suffering big time, there’s no way we can afford it,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. He said if empowered with salary ranges, the administration will make use of it. “We want to make sure this is what they’re getting and not $130,000,” said Akhtaruzzaman. “If you approve, right away, they’ll be getting $130,000.”
New resolutions, which are up for vote on Tuesday evening, to appoint each of the directors include the following salaries:
• Domenick Stampone, law director, $122,000
• Nellie Pou, business administrator, $110,000
• Ruben Gomez, economic director, $107,100
• Manuel Ojeda, public works director, $105,000
• Barbara McLennon, community development director, $92,000
• Donna Nelson-Ivy, health director, $92,000
• Jerry Speziale, police director $45,000.
The administration decided to delay the appointment of finance director Margaret Cherone.
Administration officials have often argued that ranges are necessary to attract qualified and talented individuals to the municipality. Morris said he did not buy that argument. He said Newark and Jersey City are able to pay their directors much more money because they have larger ratable bases, and therefore more revenue coming into their respective treasuries.
Torres could not immediately be reached for comments.