August 28, 2013 at 9:00 PM
At a recent conference meeting of the Mayor and Council, Michele Meade was requested to prepare an analysis comparing salaries paid to Livingston employees with other municipalities. I was surprised by the Township Manager's reply. She indicated that it would be difficult given the lack of cooperation with other communities.
Some governments post the salaries they pay on the internet. All salary information is available immediately with an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request. That is exactly what I did. For comparison purposes I selected the seven (7) municipalities that the Manager identified as "peer communities" (Westfield, Summit, Montclair, Montville, Millburn Maplewood, and the Township of Morris) I received 100% cooperation. Unlike OPRA requests that I submit to the Township of Livingston, I didn't have to file a Denial of Access Complaint with the State Government Records Council to get compliance. I provided our elected officials with all the raw data I received.
The following are a few highlights of my research that I reported to the Livingston Mayor and Council:
Livingston's Manager's 2012 salary was 25.4% higher than the average of the other seven (7) communities.
Only four (4) communities had the title of Deputy or Assistant Manager. Livingston's pay was the highest and was 69.3% higher than the average of the other three (3)
Livingston's pay for Tax Collector, Health Officer and Engineer was the highest of all the other municipalities.
Besides Livingston only one (1) other community reported having the title of Purchasing Agent or Director of Human Resources.
I am not an expert on employee compensation. There are a lot of variables involved like fringe benefits, education, experience, responsibilities, length of service etc. I cautioned our elected officials to treat the information I received as a rough comparison and a starting point for further investigation.
Questions should be raised about the priorities and directions given to our Director (and assistant) of the new Department of Human resources. I know they have created a Personnel Manual that lacks information on merit increases and policies on the personal use of Township vehicles. I have asked and received no answers about if the $85,860 that was spent to automate sick and vacation records have been fully implement in the last two years.
With salary and wages plus fringe benefits making up the largest component of the operating budget, how can the Mayor and Council make informed decisions without basic comparative information? How are contracts negotiated?
I thought I had problems getting answers. The Township Manager seems equally unresponsive to questions from elected officials.
Larry A. Kohn
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