Jersey City Council gives initial OK to provide raises to their aides, but not city directors

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The Jersey City Council decided to amend an ordinance that originally called for pay raises to the city’s directors and council aides, with only the latter getting approval on first reading.

According to the original ordinance, the city proposed annual raises ranging from $10,600 to $28,835 for nine department directors, as well as bumping the council aide salaries to $32,000.

Council aides currently receive a part-time salary of $14,999, which has been the case for many years.

To the chagrin of some council members, the city offered up a revision to the initial proposal discussed at Monday’s council caucus meeting to equalize payments for all nine department directors, regardless of their length of tenure with the city.

Ward E Councilman James Solomon told Hudson County View in a one-on-one interview that he was opposed to the city’s revised proposal for a couple of reasons, one of them being the council had learned of the city’s proposed revision just minutes before today’s regularly scheduled meeting.

“When it comes to the directors, we do want to be responsible and pay people what they are worth, but for me there were two real problems with the ordinance before us,” Solomon began.

“The first problem is that it is giving people raises who have been on the job less than six months. I don’t think any business would do that. The second problem is that basically [this ordinance] is being done very quickly: we received this ordinance at 9:55 a.m. and the meeting starts at 10:00 a.m. We need to spend significantly more time with the administration to figure out how to afford more money for directors’ salaries.”

Council members were so upset with administration officials that Council President Rolando Lavarro was prompted to ask Business Administrator Brian Platt if the city would consider separating out the ordinance into two separate measures: one to increase pay for council aides and the other to increase directors’ pay.

With that, Platt said he would have to convene with Corporation Counsel Peter Baker, and they promptly departed the council chambers only to return 10 minutes later to tell the council that the city didn’t want to change the ordinance.

That left Rolando in a bind, who ultimately told administration officials that he agreed with the premise that city directors should be paid what they are worth and therefore would be introducing a first reading ordinance in September to discuss the issue, but for now, would be voting to amend the ordinance to only include pay raises for council aides.

“The administration is making the argument that directors’ salaries need to be in line to be competitive. I am aligned with that … I’m committed to getting something on the agenda by the first meeting of September and to sit down with the business administrator to make sure that something is put forward,” said Lavarro.

“But without having enough time to review [the city’s revised proposal], I think we need some more time to make sure that concerns have been addressed as to whether or not salaries should vary depending on the position and the level of responsibilities.”

We followed up with Solomon to learn his reaction to Platt’s refusal to separate the ordinance into two ordinances.

“The administration gets to decide how they want to give us their bills, but we’re the legislative body, so if we decide to change or amend them, that’s our job. I think the council president was right on in separating the issues.”

The council approved the new ordinance to increase the salary of council aides by a vote of 7-0, with Councilmen Rich Boggiano and Daniel Rivera absent.

Last week, Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that he would be proposing an ordinance for salary increases for city directors, noting that they hadn’t been adjusted in over a decade.

“I want to be upfront w/residents. The next Council agenda I’ll be proposing raises for director level employees so they’ll be in line w/other cities. Salaries here haven’t been adjusted 10 years + to attract/retain talent we need to be competitive (im not touching my own salary)[.]”

Platt declined to comment on the council going in a different direction than what was recommended by the administration.