FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Flemington governing body is tightening its belt in response to Covid-19’s financial impact.
With court-based revenues from traffic tickets and other fine-able offenses well-below anticipated levels, the council voted to reduce the salary increase scheduled for non-union employees from 2.5 percent to 2 percent.
The only exceptions are the public defender, the assistant prosecutor and the emergency management coordinator, whose salaries were raised to $9,600, $1,800 and $2,250, respectively, to match compensation paid for those positions in nearby municipalities. These positions are part time, with no set hours.
Elected officials’ salaries will remain the same, with the mayor being paid $6,120 and council members receiving $4,935 each.
Some of the top 2020 staff salaries in the borough are chief of police at $148,114; department of public works director/recycling coordinator at $107,073; library director at $68,375; borough clerk, to include registrar of vital statistics, at $56,159; and chief financial officer, to include deputy collector, at $46,890.
The salary adjustments are effective retroactively to Jan. 1, 2020.
At the same meeting, the borough council also voted to put out an RFP, request for proposals, for an executive search firm to aid in the hiring of a borough administrator.
“The need for [a borough administrator] is high,” said Council President Caitlin Giles-McCormick.
Generally, a municipal administrator’s responsibilities include supporting the elected representatives of the council in carrying out their duties and mandates. They must plan, organize, direct and coordinate the affairs of the municipality; review and evaluate administration policies; assist in the preparation of annual budgets and financial reports; develop and maintain a list of projects, appropriate priorities and action programs; research funding sources; prepare grant applications; and oversee the day to day operations of the town.
During the discussion, Councilman Michael Harris voiced some serious concerns and questioned “the assertion that it’s obvious we need this position the borough has not ever had in the past.”
Giles-McCormick explained that what’s being proposed at this time is a first step, information gathering.
“There are things we can become more efficient about and de-politicize,” she said.
Responding to a question about cost from Councilman Chris Runion, Giles-McCormick estimated that the executive search contract will cost approximately $5,000. She added that $75,000 for an annual borough administrator’s salary was included in this year’s budget, and, since it’s already July, there will be more than enough in that line item to cover the cost of the search contract.
“The fact that we’re even considering bonding to cover operating expenses because we’re anticipating budget shortfalls is concerning,” Harris said. “I certainly would not want to see this [position] online this year.”
Looking at it from another perspective, Councilman Jeremy Long spoke about living in Hunterdon County over the years, and, in particular, the towns of Clinton and High Bridge, both of which have administrators.
“I’ve seen those towns change for the better,” he said, “I think it’s essential.”
Runion observed that while Flemington is the county seat, it also has the lowest median income in Hunterdon.
“We do need to consider expenses and how they will impact our residents,” he said. “While I’m hesitant to spend more money, I look at this as an investment that could save us money.”
Giles McCormick agreed, saying preliminary research has shown that towns hiring administrators saw substantial savings, clearer leadership, better communication and greater efficiencies.
The resolution passed five to one, with Harris casting the dissenting vote.