UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Board of County Commissioners approved 2% pay raises for themselves, the county manager and department heads at last Thursday’s board meeting.

By an ordinance they approved unanimously, the commissioners’ salaries rose from $33,466.20 each last year to $34,135.52 each this year. On top of the raise for all commissioners, Chairman Al Mirabella’s salary includes an additional $2,313.85 and Vice-Chair Rebecca Williams’ salary includes an additional $1,156.92.

The highest salary on the list is County Manager Ed Oatman’s. His salary increased from $182,330.40 last year to $185,977.01 this year.

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Salary for the Union County counsel, however, is decreasing by .83% from $179,996 to $178,500. It follows the commissioners’ appointment of former freeholder Bruce Bergen to the role of county counsel in June.

During public comments, Garwood resident Bruce Paterson expressed disapproval of the raises, saying it is disrespectful to increase the salaries when Union County residents are struggling to stay housed and fed during the pandemic.

“I’m just incredulous that amid the global pandemic, when so many people have lost their jobs... you take it on yourselves to spread around raises like Christmas presents to yourselves and to your cronies,” Paterson said.

He noted that county employees had been moved around rather than laid off during the pandemic.

Commissioner Christopher Hudak, who is the board’s fiscal chair, said the executive budget for 2021, which will be introduced at the end of this month, will be flat.

“As fiscal chair, I am pleased to announce that for the second year in a row, we will maintain a 0% increase in the budget,” Hudak said.

He expressed sympathy for residents and businesses, who are financially struggling, although he countered Paterson’s comments.

“We have worked hard to build a budget that continues to provide a safety net for those in need, cover our food distributions, maintain our COVID operations and other essential services,” he said.

Last year, the board also approved similar pay increases for themselves and department heads.

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