Town Council Gets First Look At Salary Costs

By on October 5, 2011

The resolutions governing salaries for Verona’s municipal and police employees were presented at the Town Council meeting on Monday night. The salary ordinance was introduced on first reading on Monday; full public discussion and a vote will happen at the Council’s next gathering on October 17. Here’s what you need to know before then.

First is that most salaries are up from last year. The Verona Police Department and the bulk of our municipal employees are covered by union agreements that were concluded before the recession undercut Verona’s finances and those of its residents. What that means is that a Yes vote on the salaries is a foregone conclusion unless the council wants to risk litigation. But the salary charts do potentially shed light on areas for improvement in future talks and personnel management.

The bill for the Verona Police Department’s police union salaries will dip to $2,748,894 this from $2,810,867. Salaries are up across the board but we get a savings from the presence of one fewer member of the department, which now stands at 27. The salary of Verona’s chief, Doug Huber, will rise just $1,036 to $150,764, while the salaries of Verona’s two lowest paid patrolmen will be $84,839, a jump from $74,920 last year.  The new ordinance gives Verona 15 patrolmen making $98,937 plus benefits, which were not discussed at the Monday meeting. Under the terms of their union agreement, the police are entitled to $10 for each law enforcement degree credit they earn. In the private sector, workers now largely pay for continuing education out of their own earnings. There are also several civilian positions associated with police operations, which add another $268,390 to the tab, up almost $24,000 from last year.

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At several points in the past year, questions have arisen as to whether a town of 13,500 residents needs a 27-member police force. Township Manager has responded that cutting the size of the department would result in longer response times to calls, though he has not specified how much longer they would be. Average response time now is two and a half minutes.

The tab for municipal employees is harder to grasp. Some salaries, like those of the township manager and the chief financial officer, are paid from more than one department, so if you pick up a copy of the ordinance from Town Hall, be sure to track all the asterisks. In the case of manager Joe Martin, $46,222 of his $169,224 salary is drawn from the administrative and executive budget, while the rest is split evenly between the water and sewer departments.   Martin’s proposed salary is unchanged from last year. That is not the case for union employees, where salaries were mandated to go higher, though not substantially. The top salary in the Buildings & Grounds Department will now be $87,541, up from $86,840 in the last ordinance. Retirements have brought some savings: In the sewer plant, headcount has fallen to nine from eleven, a savings of nearly $102,000.

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But increased shared services may show the way to savings down the road. The salary for Verona’s tax assessor, who splits his time between several Essex County towns, is just $52,240 this time, up from $52,000 in the last ordinance. But the assistant assessor, which is not a shared position, is marked at $72,650, up from $70,193. Verona does not bear the full burden of many top-level positions, such as municipal court judge and prosecutor, as well as our plumbing and electrical inspectors.

The public will be able to ask questions about the salary ordinance at the next Town Council meeting, scheduled for Monday, October 17 at 7 p.m.

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3 Comments

  1. Julie O

    October 6, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Some patrolmen got a $10,000 raise?!! Are you kidding me? That’s 13%!
    While people in the public sector get laid off, get pay cuts, or get NO raise.

  2. Virginia Citrano

    October 6, 2011 at 6:25 am

    These are the salary grade increases that were set out by the police union when the contract was negotiated. They were substantial even when the economy was booming, and they certainly look out of synch now. One would hope that the union takes the economic situation of the taxpayers it serves into account in the next negotiation.

  3. Valerie

    October 6, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Considering that union representation didn’t take the economic conditions into account back in 2009 (remember, the banks failed in 2008 and the economy was already failing), when the 4 year contracts were signed, I’m not very hopeful for the next round of negotiations for 2013. The union goes into negotiations with the upper hand because of binding arbitration. The union doesn’t have to accept what the town can offer. They already know the town won’t spend the money on the legal fees fighting them in arbitration because the town always loses. The town is in a lose lose situation.

    I loved your article, even though I disagree with with your recession time line. The recession hit my husbands industry way before 2009.

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