Newark City Council Advances Pay Hike for Themselves After Giving Mayor $50K Raise

City council advanced a set of measures that could add an additional $30,000 to the mayor's salary and increase their own salaries as well.
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NEWARK, NJ - Mayor Ras Baraka just got a raise and now another set of ordinances could potentially increase his salary again while giving council members a higher paycheck.

City council on Tuesday fully approved raising Baraka’s salary by $50,000 to $180,000 and new salary ranges for several other top administrators. The ordinance was passed after the state’s fiscal monitoring of Newark mostly ended in mid-2018, the city’s chief operations officers previously said.

"There have been no increases for the administration for at least 12 years,” said city Business Administrator Eric Pennington, who could see his own salary rise up to $260,000. "And in the case of the mayor, it's a little complicated but it's been more than that [...] The current mayor has made less than his predecessor and his predecessor's predecessor.

“It is long overdue that the administration is appropriately compensated.”

The ranges and salary increases were approved unanimously by the council 8-0, with West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum, Jr. absent.

A fiscal monitor was appointed around 2014 to Newark in exchange for $10 million in transitional aid to help the city get out of its reported $30 million deficit. The agreement between the state and Newark put restrictions on hirings, salary increases, and promotions while the city was under fiscal supervision.

Meanwhile, two new measures that would increase the mayor and councilmember’s salaries were added late to Tuesday’s city council agenda, which irritated councilmen Anibal Ramos and Augusto Amador.  

“We traditionally would have some extensive discussion amongst the council before something like this would pop up on the agenda,” said Ramos, who represents the North Ward. “I know there have been individual conversations, but we have not had an opportunity to discuss this and that's a problem for me. So I don't plan on supporting this.”

One ordinance would allow the mayor to fold his payment in lieu of expenses of $30,000 annually into his salary, while eliminating the same expense account for council members. The measure would also increase the mayor’s payment of lieu of expense account by $5,000, according to the business administrator.  

Ramos said payment in lieu of expenses are used by council members to “support different community groups and organizations.”

The state Comptroller's office, which investigates fiscal waste, in 2013 recommended the city's payment in lieu expenses be reconsidered. The 2013 report said the city had no guidelines for how those funds should be used and did not require any expenditures from those accounts to be documented.

From 2010 to 2012, payment in lieu of expenses totaled $545,877 for both the mayor and council members, according to the Comptroller's report. Council members were paid an $18,000 allowance, while the council president received $20,000, according to the report.

“In several reports re-visiting the City of Newark’s compliance with the initial (2013) report the Comptroller’s office has followed up on the requirement that such payments end,” said Newark City Clerk Kenneth Louis in a statement.

The measure advanced 7-0, with Ramos abstaining and McCallum absent.

The second ordinance would make up for the elimination of the council member’s payment in lieu of expense accounts by increasing their salaries.  Without their expense account, the council president currently makes $71,325, while the rest earn $64,766, according to the city clerk.

The new ordinance would increase the council president’s salary by more than $33,000 to $105,000. Other council members paychecks would increase by about $30,000 to $95,000.

Amador, who represents the East Ward, and Ramos both voted no to advance the increase.

A public hearing will be held for the payment in lieu of expenses and council members’ salaries on March 12 at 10 a.m. at Newark City Hall.

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