The city’s governing body has approved an ordinance setting the salaries of high ranking municipal officials which ends longevity pay.
Council members in a 7-1 vote approved the new salary ordinance during their regular deliberation session on Tuesday, August 25th, 2015. The ordinance freezes longevity pay, percentage increases employees receive for length of service, for high ranking city officials.
“From this point forward longevity will no longer be calculated as part of the compensation,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. Those high ranking officials who have received longevity pay will be frozen at their level without any future increases, said city officials.
The city’s maximum longevity pay of 12-percent kicks in after 25 years of public service. Prior to that five years of service earned two-percent of regular annual salary — 10 years earned four-percent, 15 years earned six-percent, and 20 years earned 10-percent, said city’s law director Domenick Stampone.
Morris said years of public service does not mean just the number of years an employee has been holding a particular post in the city, but includes number of years that individual has worked in state, county, and municipal governments.
Morris said the numbers listed on the salary ordinance were “misleading.” He said the numbers appeared to be the actual salaries of each of the directors. He cited economic development director’s salary which is set at $107,000.
Morris said economic development director Ruben Gomez was hired at $105,000 – base pay – yet the ordinance lists $107,000.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the compensation figures on the ordinance are base salaries of each of the directors. She explained Gomez’s base salary changed when the city switched him from a division head to a department director after the city’s Community Development Department was restructured to create the Economic Development Department.
Morris wanted to set the exact salaries each of the directors were earning from the city so as to avoid any future disputes over salary hikes.
The ordinance sets salaries as follows:
• Mayor $119,000
• Business administrator $110,000
• Community Development director $92,000
• Economic Development director $107,000
• Finance director $140,000
• Fire director (part-time) $45,000
• Health director $92,000
• Law director $122,000
• Police director (full-time) $92,000
• Police director (part-time) $45,000 (the ordinance grants the mayor the option to hire a full-time or part-time police director)
• Public Works director $105,000
• Tax assessor $105,000
• Tax collector $75,755
• Council president $42,213
• Council member $41,213
• City clerk $92,000
It makes little sense to calculate longevity pay into a salary ordinance that is setting pay for each of the posts, reasoned Pou.
“You are establishing the salary ordinance for positions going forward,” she said. Longevity is calculated based on an individual’s years of service and no two people may have served the same amount of time, she said.
Morris was persuaded by the business administrator’s argument. He said she can provide council members with the gross salaries for each of the department heads.
“I’d love to see what actually each one of them is making,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. She requested the gross salaries from the administration.
Pou said gross salaries for the directors are included in documents that are provided to council members during departmental budget hearings.
Council members held a public hearing in which four people spoke. Tom Fuscaldo said when the city adopted the Faulkner Act strong-mayor form of government council members were provided stipends and there was no salaries attached.
“I don’t begrudge you for what you get paid,” said Michael Symonds. He said council members are often generous in handing out donations for causes.
Symonds said the salary ordinance should be clear and precise so that anyone may be able to comprehend it.
“The original salary ordinance had a base that was different from what is stated here,” said Morris. “You have added to that base additional compensation in the way of longevity and cost of living increases.”
The ordinance which was approved by seven council members – Alex Mendez, councilman at-large voted against; James Staton, 1st Ward councilman, was absent – sets new base salaries for elected officials and department directors.
“These will be the base salaries moving forward when we bring new people into the city,” said Morris.