More than three years after slashing the previous mayor’s pay by two-thirds, City Council introduced a measure that would restore the annual salary.
Ordinance O-9-15 was introduced on Monday night and would increase the annual salary from $20,809 to $72,000. It is scheduled to come up for a public hearing and final adoption at the May 11 regular meeting. The nine City Council members, also considered part-time positions, are paid $8,043, with $9,676 for the council president. There are no changes to those salaries.
There was little discussion about the measure during the meeting, other than a brief explanation from City Administrator Cherron Rountree. She said the ordinance annually sets the salaries for management positions within the city that are not represented by bargaining units.
In a brief telephone interview last night, Mayor Samson Steinman said that he’s already been working full-time as mayor and will continue to do so. He said he resigned several weeks ago as borough administrator in Bound Brook, where he was appointed Jan. 29, to focus full-time on being mayor. The mayor’s position has historically been considered “part-time” but Steinman said the Faulkner Act, which governs the city, does not specify the position as full-time or part-time.
City Council President Bob Bresenhan endorsed the increased salary, explaining that the governing body would like to see a full-time mayor working with the city administrator “with things moving forward.” As interim mayor, Steinman has done a lot for downtown efforts, he said. “He’s one of our biggest advocates, bringing in activities, business, and exposing people to Rahway,” said Bresenhan, who said he didn’t agree with the council’s move to cut Proctor’s salary at the time. He was elected in 2012 and wasn’t on the City Council when that occurred in late 2011.
The move from $20,809 to $72,000 would be an increase of 246 percent over last year, and almost 11 percent more than the $65,000 earned by previous mayors. Steinman attributed that difference to a stipend for emergency management that went to the previous mayor.
According to the mayor, a vacant assistant business administrator position went unfilled and other reorganizations within City Hall will provide funds for the higher new salary.
A review of the 2015 city budget, also introduced Monday night, doesn’t make clear exactly where those savings lie. Within “General Administration,” the “Salaries and Wages” line is budgeted for $519,500, almost $100,000 more than the $411,768 paid or the $400,000 budgeted for 2014. “Other expenses” are budgeted at $320,000, up from $196,000 last year. The mayor’s office “Salaries and Wages” line remains roughly the same at $21,000 and most every “Salaries and Wages” line is either the same or higher for 2015, according to the budget, which will come up for a public hearing May 11.
In December 2011, City Council reduced former Mayor Rick Proctor’s annual salary from $65,000 to $20,809. Steinman, then the 6th Ward councilman, pushed for the reduction, reasoning that Proctor did not have the experience as mayor that previous Mayor James Kennedy, who served 20 years, had. The governing body unanimously approved O-38-11 at that time amid a falling out with Proctor as well as within the administration itself.
At the time, Proctor described the move as political retribution while Steinman argued that the salary ordinance took into account the overall average salary of all mayors in Union County and that Kennedy had earned a higher salary as his mayoral experience and accomplishments grew. He also described the mayor’s position as not so much a job as public service.
Prior to being hired in Bound Brook, where Former Mayor James Kennedy’s firm has consulted on redevelopment efforts, Steinman served as township administrator in Hillside on an interim basis and before that was executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center.