JACKSON – In a three to two vote, the Township Council raised their salaries from the current $8,668 to $32,000 during the latest council meeting. That’s a pay raise of 370%.
Councilmen Nino Borrelli and Steve Chisholm voted against the raises.
Noting the new pay rate, Borrelli said that many residents “don’t make that figure a year working even full time. Serving on the council is part-time and an honor.”
“This is a huge bump in pay of what we earn…What are we doing this year as opposed to our previous year that justifies this? I can’t justify to all of you or all the residents outside this building a big increase for myself and other elected officials especially during these uncertain economic times,” he said.
Borrelli added, “the entire town is undergoing a reassessment on their properties. We are to represent our taxpayers first and foremost. I’m not here for the paycheck.”
Chisholm said, “I voted no on this repeatedly, five times in the last three years for a pay raise and we had an increase through COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment).” He added that due to President Joe Biden “Americans have $11,000 less in their pocket than under Donald Trump under the same money they earned. It would be kind of tone deaf for me to rail over Sleepy Joe and King Philip (Governor Murphy) on a regular basis and go along with exactly what they did.”
Chisholm added, “while this is not strictly a part-time position and our time is worth something and you can value it for what it is, I kind of value what our founding fathers did, that this is more of a servant leadership position and so I am here to serve the public and I do not see the large increase all at once as a good idea so I’m going to vote no.”
Council Vice President Scott Sargent and Councilman Mordechai Burstein voted for the raises and defended the increases as being in line with part-time elected positions in communities like Brick and Lakewood townships.
However, in Brick, the council members only make $15,000 and the mayor makes $39,393.
“Our founding fathers certainly appreciated any type of monies that go towards making our township better. I value my time. I value each and every council person’s time up here. We haven’t had a raise since 2012. I’m not sure that’s good government as well I am voting yes,” said Sargent, who took office last year.
He told The Jackson Times after the meeting that he would be making the $32,000 salary of a councilman as there was no increase involved for the vice council president position.
Burnstein remarked, “I’m just a little startled. We passed Ordinance 36-23 unanimously. I think it was two meetings ago in which we all clearly agreed on the salary range of all our employees and within that was the salary of council.”
“I guess now that it explicitly said council members, some council members have a problem justifying their vote just a month ago, so I vote yes to everything,” he added. This meant 23 resolutions as part of the consent agenda.
Consent agendas allow council members to provide an up-or-down vote on each of the items, without need for discussion or clarification.
Council President Jennifer Kuhn did not comment other than to vote yes for the increase. She will now be making $35,000 as leader of the council.
Mayor Michael Reina’s salary will rise slightly from $42,724.80 to $44,340. He also has a full-time job as the Ocean County superintendent of bridges.
Resident Elenor Hannum said the raises represented “a truly egregious disregard for the residents of this town especially during these economic times. This just screams of arrogance and entitlement.”
Last year, residents Ray Cattonar, Randy Bergmann and Rosario Herrero questioned the council on a measure that approved cost-of living-increases, which brought the stipends to $8,668. At that time, then Council President Martin Flemming said they offered to back date the COLA to the last raise council had “which I think was 2008 but Council turned it down.”
Flemming said it would be based on COLA and not based on the high end of the range. “I don’t see that coming, not with this council. Then Vice Council President Chisholm agreed.
Alyssa Riccardi contributed to this story.