Rice Bill To Strengthen Oversight Of County, Local Salaries Approved

Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex)

Measure Would Require Greater Notification of Salary Actions, Allow Municipal Council or County Board of Freeholders to Provide Check on Salary Actions

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice which would create greater oversight and control of municipal and county employee salaries was approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee today by a vote of 3-0, with two abstentions.

“Unfortunately, the patronage system is alive and well in New Jersey, and taxpayers pay the cost through higher and higher property taxes,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex, and vice chair of the Senate committee. “While a vast majority of the public employees work hard and earn their paychecks, we need to be constantly on guard against no-show patronage hires which seek to enrich an elite few on the taxpayer’s dime. This bill would create an additional layer of oversight and review in municipal and county salary actions in order to protect and preserve limited public resources.”

The bill, S-1878, would amend the current procedure for establishing compensation packages for certain employees at the county and municipal level. Under the bill, the salary, wages or other compensation for the administrator and department heads would be fixed by the county board of freeholders or the municipal council. Additionally, the salary, wages or other compensation for county or local office-holders would be fixed by ordinance.

When establishing or increasing the salary of any other county or municipal employee, the bill would require the county executive or mayor to file written notice of the proposal with the board of freeholders or municipal council. Written notification would include the employee compensation disclosure form currently required under the statutes governing local financial affairs, and any proposal to establish or increase an employee’s salary by $50,000 would not take effect for 20 days after filing the required notice. Finally the board of freeholders or municipal council would have the ability to disapprove of any starting salary or salary increase in excess of $50,000 by adopting a resolution by a two-thirds vote.

“If an employee’s salary is justified, there should be no reason not to subject it to the new review and oversight standards laid out in this bill,” said Senator Rice. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re paying a fair wage for honest work by talented and hard-working public employees. But New Jersey taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize political payback in the form of patronage hires carrying excessive price tags and little benefit to the county or municipality picking up the tab.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.