No Pay Raises for Some South Orange Village Employees -- Yet

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South Orange Trustee Michael Goldberg, center, presents an update on the Village Hall renovation project. Pictured, from left, are Trustees Janine Bauer and Deborah Davis Ford, Village President Alex Torpey, and Trustee Nancy Gould. (Photo by Amy Kiste Nyberg)
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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – South Orange Village employees are not getting a raise for 2011 – not yet, anyway.

At its meeting Monday night, the board voted 4-3 (with Board President Alex Torpey breaking the tie) to adopt an ordinance setting titles and the pay ranges for supervisory personnel and other employees not covered by contracts. However, unlike past years, the village administrator will not automatically adjust salaries. Instead, the board asked for a separate resolution that will set the pay increase.

The vote split down the middle, with Trustees Deborah Davis Ford, Howard Levison and Mark Rosner voting yes and Trustees Janine Bauer, Michael Goldberg and Nancy Gould voting no.

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The discussion centered on two sticking points. The first was the desire on the part of some trustees to implement performance-based increases. The second was a disagreement over whether a 2 percent raise was agreed to during earlier budget workshops.

Police and fire union contracts call for a 2 percent increase, and the board has historically awarded the same pay rate to the village’s noncontract employees as that negotiated for union employees. Interim Administrator Reagan Burkholder supported an across-the-board 2 percent increase, rather than differential raises, since no performance standards had been set. He noted, “I don’t think any kind of performance-based increase should be imposed after the fact.”

Levison said he would like to see merit raises for 2012, “even if we don’t have everything in place.”

Both Levison and Rosner said that the trustees had not agreed to a 2 percent increase during budget workshops. Levison said he had asked then Village Administrator John Gross for an analysis of the impact of salaries on the budget “20 or 30 times” and never received it. “It’s the way this process has been handled,” he said. “It’s been piss poor on the part of the CFO/administrator who did it.”

However, Goldberg said the trustees had agreed on a 2 percent increase. “As I recall, the consensus at the time was … to be consistent with the other unions that we should just keep it at 2 percent,” he said. Levison noted that the impact on the budget between a 1.5 percent increase and a 2 percent increase would only be about $7,500. Torpey commented, “The amount of money is so small that it not worth haggling about” and urged the trustees to move ahead, “especially considering how much work (the employees) do to support us.”

If a resolution is passed at the board’s next meeting granting the 2 percent increase, that pay raise would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2011, and would be paid in one lump sum, according to Burkholder.

In a related discussion, Burkholder said he recommends the village complete a salary study. While he had intended to undertake that task, he noted that the search for the new village administrator is moving along more quickly than he anticipated, so he is not sure whether he will be able to complete the study in time.

The board asked him to present a proposal that would give the cost of completing the study as a consultant.

In other action:

-- Goldberg presented an update on village hall renovations (see related story).

-- Village Counsel Steven Rother reported that the village is asking for a court-appointed overseer for the East Orange Water Commission, which provides water for the village. The village is involved with a lawsuit against EOWC and continues to independently monitor water quality. A hearing on the request for an overseer is slated for Jan. 5.

-- the village heard a report from the South Orange Performing Arts Center treasurer that while cash flow is improving for SOPAC, it still does not have the funds to pay the village a portion of the rent from Clearview Cinemas that is called for in the agreement between the village and SOPAC.

-- heard from Leslie Pogany, the owner of Bunny’s Restaurant, who suggested the village look into a shared services agreement with Maplewood, and possibly Milburn, for a proposed Special Improvement District. The SID would assess business owners within the boundaries and use the money for downtown improvements.

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