The City Council is set to vote on a salary ordinance Monday night that would reduce the mayor’s salary by 68 percent. The council also is expected to override Mayor Rick Proctor’s veto of an anti-nepotism ordinance (O-33-11) as well as vote on a PILOT for the Meridia Water’s Edge development (O-29-11).
The mayor’s salary would change from $65,000 to $20,809, effective in January. The mayor’s post is considered a part-time position, just like City Council members, who are paid $8,043 ($9,676 for the council president).
Sixth Ward Councilman Samson Steinman explained in a brief interview after Tuesday’s pre-conference meeting that the salary ordinance merely follows a pattern of reducing salaries when turnover occurs at the department head level. He pointed to numerous posts within City Hall — including the tax assessor, tax collector and health officer, among others — whose salaries were set less than their predecessor after a recent hire, or the position was filled by a consultant or shared with another municipality.
Steinman explained that the $20,878 figure in the salary ordinance was arrived at by taking slightly more than the overall average salary of all Union County mayors. He also pointed to neighboring Linden as an example, where the mayor took a pay cut when was elected after succeeding a longtime mayor who earned well into the six figures. Steinman and some other City Council members were in office then raises for former Mayor James Kennedy were approved, progressively raising his salary from $18,000 early in his tenure (1990-2010) to $65,000 by his final term. Steinman said Kennedy earned the higher salary as his mayoral experience and accomplishments grew.
Mayor Rick Proctor dismissed that excuse, still describing the move as political retribution after the council rejected his proposal to add staff within his office while also claiming the mayor tried to hire his wife as health officer. Using Steinman’s logic, Proctor said, the mayor’s salary should have been reduced after he won election in November, adding that he actually declined a salary increase last summer. He earned about $150,000 when he was the city’s health officer.
One resident who spoke at this past Tuesday’s pre-conference meeting suggested to City Council that all city employees and officials have their salaries frozen until taxpayers can afford it. Monday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.