Howell council members introduce, debate salary ordinance

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HOWELL – In a vote that shaped up along political party lines, the members of the Howell Township Council introduced the municipality’s 2019 salary ordinance for non-union employees.

During a meeting on Feb. 19, Republican Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell, Republican Councilman Thomas Russo and Republican Councilwoman Pamela Richmond voted “yes” on a motion to introduce the ordinance.

Democratic Mayor Theresa Berger and Democratic Councilman John Bonevich voted “no” on the motion to introduce the ordinance.

A public hearing regarding the salary ordinance is scheduled for the council’s March 5 meeting. Council members may adopt the ordinance following the public hearing.

Bonevich, Russo and Richmond joined the governing body in January and were voting on a salary ordinance for the first time.

The ordinance does not establish or list a specific salary for any Howell employee. The ordinance establishes a minimum salary and a maximum salary for various municipal positions.

The proposed ordinance amends the maximum salary for the police chief from $201,000 to $230,000. The minimum salary will remain $95,000.

The proposed ordinance amends the maximum salary for the chief financial officer from $140,000 to $160,000. The minimum salary will remain $75,000.

The proposed ordinance amends the maximum salary for the municipal clerk from $110,000 to $120,000. The minimum salary will remain $65,000.

The proposed ordinance amends the maximum salary for the township manager from $145,000 to $185,000. The minimum salary will remain $75,000.

The proposed ordinance amends the minimum salary for some positions, for example, the assistant chief financial officer’s minimum salary was amended from $60,000 to $50,000 and the maximum salary was amended from $95,000 to $110,000.

The deputy tax collector’s minimum salary was amended from $55,000 to $45,000 and the maximum salary was amended from $65,000 to $85,000.

The deputy township manager’s minimum salary was amended from $10,000 to $5,000 and the maximum salary was amended from $95,000 to $110,000.

“I am not against giving anyone a raise, but some of these maximum raises do not coincide with the 2019 salaries. I am afraid the ranges will allow several increases without our approval, without council approval, so no,” Bonevich said as he cast his vote. “The maximum ranges should be lower.”

Russo asked if he had any figures in mind and Bonevich said the council members would have to go by each position, to which Russo replied that the council members should discuss the matter.

“Is there a number? I am not sure that is what (Bonevich) is saying because I also reviewed … I asked for information because I wanted to make sure if we were going to have salary increases that we were at least being consistent with other towns. So I asked and we all received salary ordinances from other towns,” Berger said.

“A couple of things I personally was looking for was are the towns the same sizes? I was going back and forth trying to look at the towns, trying to see how many employees were in each town, what the size of the town was. It was very cumbersome for me. I have not really finished the whole project, to be honest,” the mayor said.

“Where did we get the (salary) ranges from? What percentage was used to increase the range? Which town did we actually go with? Did we use one town or did we use six different towns and did that mean we just picked and chose the numbers?” Berger asked.

Russo said the council received a significant amount of information from comparable towns.

Berger said she was still reviewing all of the documents the council received.

Russo said he reviewed the information and “I found the averages were comparable to other big towns. We are the largest town, I believe by area, in Monmouth County. We are the second town by population in Monmouth County. We are the 32nd largest town in the state. I looked all over the place, I spent hours on this … I did a lot of homework and I hope everybody up here did, too. I hope so, it is a big deal.”

Russo said he concluded the salary ranges in Howell are commensurate with towns that are Howell’s size.

“My question to the council would be, what research shows otherwise?” Russo said.

“These maximum ranges do not coincide with the salaries being paid right now, it is too much of a bump. The (maximum salaries) should be more reflective of what we are paying right now,” Bonevich said.

Russo asked if the salary ranges should be less and Bonevich said, “yes, they should be less.”

“Every year we should come back and revisit this. We should not say there is an extra $30,000 here and then we get a budget next year and we do not have a say,” Bonevich said.

Russo asked Bonevich how much less he was talking about because “we have an ordinance here and we have work to do, we have a budget coming up, we have a lot of work to do.”

“That’s great, I voted ‘no,’ ” Bonevich said.

Russo asked for other comments and Richmond said, “I read what (the council) read. I have asked questions and I seem to favor what (Russo said), that if you look at the whole grand scheme, and it’s benefits, it’s pensions, it is all that, take them into consideration. How about hours worked? I know the contract says 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but I can guarantee that if you come into (town hall), most of our professionals are here way after that.”

Richmond said she believes the salary ranges in Howell are comparable to larger municipalities.

Bonevich said Berger asked for the actual salaries of individuals in other towns, but was provided with salary ordinances.

Richmond said, “to be fair, (Berger) said she never got the emails.”

Berger said she had a problem with email that day.

“Reasonable minds can differ, right? I am not saying you guys are wrong and that it is terrible … What I am saying is that I did the research, spent the time on this, I came to a conclusion and I want the town to know. … The numbers that are in our ordinances are absolutely commensurate with towns of our size across the state, absolutely,” Russo said.

Berger said officials could not pick and choose from the 20 or 30 towns from which they received data. She said her point was whether the numbers came from one town.

Russo said the numbers in the salary ordinance did not come from one municipality.