FORKED RIVER – Elected officials in all-Republican Lacey Township just quietly voted themselves a salary increase in excess of 40%, public records obtained this week revealed.
According to documents provided by Lacey officials in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request Thursday, salary increases for the mayor and township committee were authorized as a part of an ordinance originally passed in March and approved at a second reading in April. In addition to authorizing salary increases for township elected officials, the ordinance set salaries for other township positions.
For 2017, the mayor of the township will receive $11,000 in compensation, while committee members will receive $10,000 each. The new salaries represent an increase for the mayor of $3,500 and committee members will receive a yearly increase in the amount of $3000. Last year, the mayor was compensated $7,500 for their service while committee members were previously paid $7,000 per year, according to the documents.
The salary hike amounts to a 42.85% increase in pay for township committee members, while the mayor’s pay increases by 46.66% under the new ordinance.
Until these documents became public, details on what the exact increase amounted to were unclear, but the raise did become a controversy at a recent public meeting of Lacey’s elected officials.
“Did you guys give yourself a 40% raise?” questioned Lacey resident and volunteer firefighter Kevin Flynn. Elected officials initially responded evasively but defended the salary increase in light of Flynn’s scrutiny.
“I am not sure what the exact percent was,” Lacey Mayor Peter Curatolo said. “On par with the other 32 municipalities ours is exceedingly low,” he said of the recently approved salary increase. Curatolo claimed that it was the first incremental increase the governing body had in 13 years. At one point, Curatolo claimed that the compensation received as a committeeman is “less than minimum wage” when compared to the hours that are put in to effectively do the job.
When asked by Flynn, Lacey’s CFO was not able to provide the exact percentage of the increase, but did say she was familiar with the ordinance that authorized it.
To compensate for the new ordinance, the 2017 Lacey municipal budget identified that $51,000 has been appropriated for township committee salaries this year, up from $35,500 last year.
Those in Lacey may be taking some cues from the township that borders them to the north, Berkeley, where Mayor Carmen Amato did the same thing (albeit at a different amount) in a hastily passed municipal budget last year.