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Howell residents question proposed pay raise for Township Council members

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HOWELL – Two Howell residents have made their feelings known about a proposed salary increase for the members of the Township Council.

The $54.84 million municipal budget that has been introduced for 2021 shows the total salaries and wages line item for the Township Council increasing from $37,500 to $60,000. The budget has not been adopted and may be revised until the May 11 public hearing.

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Residents Tina Smilek and Steve Morlino addressed the salary issue during the public comment portion of the council’s April 27 meeting.

Smilek noted that the proposed increase would take a council member’s annual pay from $7,500 to $12,000.

Township Attorney Joe Clark reminded Smilek the April 27 meeting was not the public hearing on the budget and Smilek said she was aware of that fact.

Addressing the council members, Smilek said, “I think you all have been working very hard for the last year. I think you deserve something. I think the (proposed increase) is a little aggressive.”

Morlino, who has served on numerous municipal boards and commissions in Howell during the past 30 years, said his service to the community and his wife’s service on local boards was done on a volunteer basis.

“I don’t say that for accolades, I say that for the fact that citizens of this town volunteer their time … all of these people serve at the pleasure of their own experiences in this town.

“They are not compensated in any way. So when I see a headline about a Howell council pay raise up for a vote … I see what this council is looking to get for themselves,” Morlino said.

“There is a global pandemic taking place. We have people in Howell who are standing in lines for food. We have people who are out of work on unemployment.

“We have a lot of people who are financially hurt. We have people who are going to be evicted when this thing ends and the ban on evictions ends,” Morlino said.

He suggested that a raise of 2% or 3% would represent a reasonable request by the members of the governing body.

Clark said the issue would be addressed in greater depth during the May 11 public hearing on the municipal budget. He said a salary ordinance would have to be adopted by the council to enact the increase that is being proposed.

“The last salary ordinance was in 2013, eight years ago. The last raise before that was 2004, nine years prior. So we are right about on schedule for a pay raise for council,” the attorney said.

Councilman John Bonevich said the proposed increase is larger than what otherwise might be proposed because a raise is not offered annually and there is a cost of living increase.

Councilwoman Pamela Richmond said council members still have to discuss the issue.

“We don’t take it lightly, we do our research, and like Councilman Bonevich said, there is a cost of living increase, and I do concur that we work extremely hard, all present parties included,” Richmond said.

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