The Hoboken City Council will consider a measure that would increase salary ranges for elected officials (including themselves) and all directors – as well as a select few full-time employees.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The first reading of the ordinance, which will be considered at this evening’s meeting, would bump the mayor’s salary from $116,950 to $130,000, though it would not take effect until the election of a new mayor.
Incumbent Ravi Bhalla was re-elected to second term on November 2nd and he ran unopposed, while his council slate of Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle, and first time candidate Joe Quintero won in a 10-person contest.
As for the council members, their part-time salaries of $24,130 would go up to $35,000, with the council vice president getting $37,500 and the council president receiving $40,000.
If approved, those increases would take effect at the beginning of 2022.
The salary ranges of six of the Mile Square City’s main municipal directors would go up to $170,000, with the business administrator’s range hitting $199,000.
Currently, Hoboken directors can’t make more than $137,500 a year and the BA is capped at $162,000.
Additionally, the assistant comptroller, comptroller, chief financial officer (CFO), payroll supervisor, and tax collector will see their salary ranges increase from $8,000 to $10,000.
City spokeswoman Marilyn Baer said that the ordinance is being considered in order to retain and attract the best talent possible.
“The first reading ordinance amending salary ranges for certain employees does not guarantee anyone a raise, but rather just increases the range in one’s salary,” she wrote in an email.
“It was drafted to ensure the city remains competitive in attracting and retaining talented employees as over the last few years several high-caliber directors have left the employ of the city after receiving higher paying job offers with similar titles elsewhere.”
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, an outspoken opponent of the administration, said in an email blast this morning that she would be voting against the ordinance since it could increase the city budget by up to $346,000 without any dialogue with employees.
She also noted that many of the city’s union workers still haven’t seen their contracts settled.
“The City Council has taken measures to REDUCE salary costs in the past: in 2020, the City Council approved a 10% reduction in salaries for this same group of electeds and directors for all of 2020 as a way to contribute towards reducing the tax burden on residents at a time when we were facing unprecedented high tax increases,” she wrote.
“I would like to see this ordinance tabled at least until the remaining city employee contracts are settled and to have the different components justified and broken out for separate votes.”
Five of the city’s six employee unions, with the exception of the Police Superior Officers Association, are currently working without a contract.
Two separate but related measures would potentially bring back the Office of Constituent Affairs, a Team Bhalla campaign promise, as well as fund the new division of housing – which will be headed by outgoing Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco.
Baer did not respond to a question asking if Falco and 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, whose uncle – George DeStefano – serves as the city’s CFO, would be able to vote on the salary range ordinance.
In June of last year, the council overrode a veto from Bhalla and effectively abolished the Office of Constituent Affairs by voting to no longer fund the department, arguing that the reduction in spending could be balanced with salary cuts elsewhere.
The city council also does not have the ability to fire employees, as Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia confirmed at the time.
Additionally, Baer said that an open, formal interview process will be conducted to find a new head of the department (as they did four years ago) if the council indeed approves the ordinance on first and second reading.
In neighboring Jersey City, the city council roughly doubled their salaries in May 2019 and approved $240,000 worth of municipal salary hikes at the beginning of this year.
At the Hoboken City Council meeting this evening, the first reading of the ordinance passed 5-2(1), with Fisher and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino voting no.
Council President Ruben Ramos abstained and 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco was absent.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the Hoboken City Council’s vote on first reading.