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Vol. LXII, No. 5
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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Borough Hall Approves PD Pay Hikes, as Challenges to Increases Fade

Matthew Hersh

Borough Hall handed out pay increases to the Princeton Borough Police Departments top administrative law enforcers last week, and, at least for now, concerns over precipitous police pay increases will likely wait until the next union contract discussion, three years out.

The 5-1 vote, in favor of an ordinance introduced two weeks ago, came after a Council discussion where members expressed significant concern over a municipality’s continued ability to finance law enforcement, while fighting a losing battle against police union contracts.

Under the new code, a 3.75 percent increase, retroactive to 2007, would set an entry level 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.

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.

Councilman David Goldfarb, originally a leading opponent of the increases, was the first to acknowledge that challenging the hikes could prove more detrimental for the Borough.

“We can’t continue like this or salaries will continue to rise,” Mr. Goldfarb said, though adding that the “system is set up so we have very little room,” and that the likely outcome of challenging the pay increases would be even higher salaries.

All but Councilman Roger Martindell ultimately voted for the measure. Mr. Martindell, who also voted to hold off on introducing the ordinance two weeks ago, repeated his original claim that the Borough should bring its complaint to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, but also evoked the specter of a recession in casting the lone nay vote.

“How can we ask our taxpayers to pay an increase in salary of more than 5 percent a year, at a time when we are going to hit a recession, is unbelievable,” Mr. Martindell said. “It’s a bad deal.”

Mr. Martindell acknowledged the risks posed if the Borough were not to pass the measure, and entered into arbitration. “We’re not going to be any better off, but if we’re on the threshold of a recession, then there may be some hope that an arbitrator would not be supporting a 5 percent per year increase, and I don’t see any evidence before us that would indicate otherwise.”

Mr. Martindell said Council “had a responsibility to do what we can” to keep taxes low. “If the state system is so wacky, that we vote this down and the state imposes an increase, then that’s unfortunate, and we should take it to the League, the governor, and to the Legislature.”

Council President Peggy Karcher said that the issue could provide an opportunity to discuss departmental consolidation with Princeton Township, a proposal that the Township has rejected in the past without full municipal consolidation.

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