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Vol. LXII, No. 3
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
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Police See Pay Increases, as Borough Looks to State to Curb Future Hikes

Matthew Hersh

The prospect of the Princeton Borough Council entering into a new, three-year salary agreement establishing pay rates for senior-level officers on the 34-member police has left Council members concerned about rising salaries and calling for legislative aid from the state.

A 5-1 vote on introducing an ordinance concerning salaries and compensation of police superior officers came just moments after Borough Hall signed off on an agreement between the town and the police union, Policemen’s Benevolent Association, Local 130, Superior Officers’ Association, regarding a collective negotiation agreement.

And while the salaries and compensation ordinance is still slated for a vote for final passage on January 22, Council members Roger Martindell, Wendy Benchley, and David Goldfarb expressed considerable concern over the increases in salaries, which would top out at $127,678 a year for the Borough Police Department’s top annual salary in 2009. The three appeared at a loss as to how to effectively combat the state-mandated increases.

Mr. Martindell cast the lone dissenting vote for both the salary and the PBA agreement measures, each retroactive to January 1, 2007.

“What the Legislature gives to police officers across the state of New Jersey adds up to many, many millions of dollars a year,” Mr. Goldfarb said. “Yet nobody is willing to talk about what the Legislature does that keeps police salaries high.

“We’re talking about our superior officers here who are starting well above $100,000 per year,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

A public hearing is slated for the January 22 session, and in the event of the measure’s likely adoption, a 3.75 percent increase, retroactive to 2007, would set an entry level superior police officer’s yearly salary at $112,444, with $1,500 intervals in between each one-year pay bracket. As such, a fifth-year superior officer would receive $118,444, retroactive to 2007.

Another 3.75 percent increase would go into effect in 2008, with a 3.9 percent increase in 2009, with an entry-level superior officer making $121,210 per year, with a fifth-year superior officer making $127,678.

After five years, the ordinance outlines increases based on experience, with 2 percent increase of base pay after five years, 2 percent after eight years, 3 percent after 10 years, 4 percent after 15 years, 5 percent after 20 years, and 6 percent after 24 years.

Princeton Borough allocated roughly $3.3 million in police salaries and wages in 2007.

Mr. Goldfarb said the state Legislature “should be realizing that the decisions they make have consequences on municipalities across New Jersey where police salaries are a very big part of the budget.

The police budget is the largest budget item for Princeton Borough. “The compounded growth of the police budget is just enormous, and most of it is related to decisions over which we have no control,” Mr. Goldfarb said.

Borough administrator Robert Bruschi warned that the Borough could reject the offer and enter into a binding arbitration process, with the prospect of having to ultimately pay higher salaries, which was what resulted the last time the Borough attempted to fight the state over salary hikes, he said.

“The cards are stacked in favor of the police unions,” Mr. Goldfarb said, suggesting that the only option the Borough had was to resist promotions, though he added that resisting promotion would be an unlikely scenario.

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