Budget changes boost mayor’s pay, rainy day surplus account

Budget changes made April 8 will boost the mayor's pay and the municipal surplus.

Budget changes made April 8 will boost the mayor’s pay and the municipal surplus.

The Township Council carried on its review of the draft $21.9 million municipal budget at a special Monday night meeting in which it agreed to give the mayor a $2,000 annual raise and also move a total $250,000 from various budget accounts into the municipal surplus.

None of these changes made on April 8 affect the 2-cent reduction in the municipal tax rate that residents have been promised for 2013. The proposed tax cut works out to an annual savings of about $76 in municipal taxes for a house assessed at the township average of $381,000.

Council members said the 2013 budget would be officially introduced at their next meeting on April 11.

During the April 8 budget discussion, the council unanimously approved motions to cut $220,000 from the reserve for uncollected taxes; $5,000 from the tax assessor’s account; $10,000 from the legal account; $5,000 from the fire department’s vehicle maintenance account; and $10,000 from the fuel account for township vehicles.

The spending cuts, however, do not spell additional tax relief beyond the original $76.

“We’re putting it into the surplus,” Council President Ron Witt said. “The rainy day fund was the goal.”

Councilman David Boyne said afterward he believed the municipal surplus was too low in the administration’s original plan, which is why he and Witt had pushed to reduce some spending accounts and move the funds into the surplus. Boyne declined to say on April 9 what the original surplus projection had been because the budget is not a public document until it is introduced. He would only say $250,000 more was needed in the surplus to ensure tax stability in 2014.

In another change agreed to on April 8, the council approved a motion to remove $5,000 from the general administration salary and wages account for employees in the mayor’s office and add $5,000 to the salary and wage account in the municipal clerk’s office. That motion was approved 4-1, with Councilwoman Sheree McGowan voting no.

The decision to increase the mayor’s salary to $12,319.82 a year (by reducing a “postage” line item by $2,000) was made at the very end of the council meeting, when Councilwoman Chris Ciaccio broached the topic, prompting the mayor to leave the room.

Ciaccio said that although the position of mayor is deemed a part-time job with a part-time salary, “it’s really not a part-time job.” She said the mayor is increasingly called away from his own job to attend meetings and public events related to township business. Fried is the CEO of Tricore, a Robbinsville-based payroll cost management services company.

There are retired people in town that also might be interested in running for mayor in the future  if the part-time salary was higher, Ciaccio said.

“We looked at other places around and the mayor of West Windsor makes $18,000,” Ciaccio said, noting West Windsor has the same form of government that Robbinsville does. (Ciaccio was rounding the salary figure; the West Windsor mayor earns $17,685 annually and the West Windsor council members earn $4,941 each, according to the township clerk.)

In 2012, the Fried’s salary was raised to $10,117, but the council was apparently basing the proposed $2,000 increase on what the mayor’s salary would be in 2013 if a 2 percent salary increase is granted ($10,319.82) in order to reach the new $12,319.82 figure. The motion to amend the draft 2013 budget to reflect a pay raise for the mayor passed unanimously.

No motion was made with regard to council salaries, which are set at $4,870.48 under the 2012 salary ordinance and would rise to $4,967.89 if a 2 percent raise is given in 2013.

There was no public comment on the salary issue; the only people who attended the meeting were two newspaper reporters and township officials.

Tweaks to the 2013 draft spending plan have been an ongoing process since the mayor first presented binders to the council two months ago. At the April 4 council meeting, the governing body agreed to Police Chief Marty Masseroni’s request to add $10,000 to the Police Department’s budget to cover additional overtime costs due to current staff shortages. The council also agreed to add $5,000 to the line item for police uniforms and equipment to cover the cost of outfitting and arming three officers expected to be hired later this year.

The money to cover these added police expenditures was taken from the surplus and does not affect the proposed 2013 tax rate of 52.2 cents per $100 in assessed value. If approved, a home assessed at $381,000 would pay $1,989 in municipal taxes a year, a savings of $76 from 2012.

The municipal local purposes tax is one of the smallest components of a resident’s total property tax bill, which also includes county, school, open space and library taxes that are collected by the township and distributed to those taxing entities. The total 2012 tax rate was $2.665 per $100 in assessed valuation, or $10,260 a year using last year’s average home value of $385,000.




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