FLEMINGTON, NJ -  Two of the most important items on last night’s Borough Council agenda weren’t on the version that was released in advance to the public, but were added to the agenda at the start of the meeting. They were new contracts covering Teamsters and Borough police.

Mayor Phil Greiner called the pay hikes under the contracts “significant.”

Officials here unanimously approved the new, three-year union contracts. Mayor Phil Greiner said the contracts consume about 20 percent of the borough’s budget, but under Council rules he doesn't have a vote on them.

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“These two contracts have potentially far-reaching effects on our budget, and there’s been no public notice provided,” Greiner said. “I see no urgency to do this tonight” rather than at the next Council meeting, the mayor said.

“It’s not as if it’s a surprise, let me very clear about that,” Councilperson Brain Swingle said. “A mention” of the vote on the contracts "was made at the last Council meeting.” And he said it would likely be difficult to get a quorum of the Council to vote on the matter over the next few weeks.

“This is a very important issue,” said Borough Attorney Barry Goodman. “This is the kind of item that typically you want to have on the agenda so people have notice of it, if possible, because it is such a big-ticket item for the budget.”

Goodman said that while it is legal to add to the agenda “there has been an outcry” from some members of the state Legislature to consider passing a law to “freeze the agenda 72 hours ahead of time to prevent this kind of thing.”

“I said at the last meeting that it was going to be put on the agenda,” Swingle said, but the mayor used his prerogative to not add it. “I find myself in a place where I continually get put off.”

“I have great concern that the public was not aware” of the upcoming contracts vote, resident Lois Stewart said. Betsy Driver, who is a candidate for Council in the November, said there should be “proper notification” of the contracts vote. Those covered under the contracts “will get their money,” she said, “it will just be a little bit later.”

Council President Marc Hain said the pay increases under the new PBA contract are because “this department was one of the lowest-paid departments in the county... This puts us just about in the middle, where we need to be.”

Swingle said there was a similar problem with the Teamsters contract. The borough’s licensed utility operator is paid around $60,000 a year, he said, while the comparable person in neighboring Raritan Township is paid more than $100,000. “We have a moral obligation to pay our employees competitively so that they can take care of their families.”

Officials said the pay hikes – which include both salary increases and increased health insurance costs  – are as follows, in percent:

year

2017

2018

2019

PBA

3.97

12.91

6.24

Teamsters

7.63

9.11

5.77

 

Officials didn't break down the increases between salaries and healthcare costs. A phone call to the borough's CFO seeking details wasn't immediately returned.