Princeton Governing Body Split over Raises for Selves

Elected officials in Princeton are divided on whether or not they should receive raises.

In a 4-3 vote last week, Mayor Liz Lempert broke a tie on the six-member council and voted to include raises for herself and the council in the 2014 budget. Council President Bernie Miller, Councilwoman Heather Howard, and Councilman Lance Liverman also voted to include the raises in the budget.

Council members Jo Butler, Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller opposed budgeting for the raises.

The raises were added to the proposed budget as part of an amendment the governing body was asked to approve last week. The Princeton Council also considered approving raises for themselves and the mayor last year, but then tabled the idea after residents reacted negatively.

“In the scheme of things, they (the raises) are very politically big but financially small,” Lempert said.

The budget amendment increases the total pool for salaries for elected officials (six council members and the mayor) from $60,000 to $79,750, a 33 percent increase.

“I personally think it should stay where it is,” Crumiller said of the salaries.

Butler questioned why the raises were added via an amendment.

“The raises were not in here before when we were having other budget discussions,” Butler said.

Lempert said the raises were not being slipped in to the budget because they will still have to be approved through a separate salary ordinance.

Administrator Bob Bruschi said the raises “fell through the cracks” when the governing body introduced the budget earlier this year.

“It was one of the items that showed up on the list things we should have put in,” Bruschi said. “It  is not a big item.”

Simon voted to remove the raises from the amended budget, but Lempert, Miller, Howard and Liverman voted for the raises to stay in the budget amendment.

“Last year there was a discussion about salary and there was a voice from the public that said we agreed to the Borough salary structure for first year of consolidation,” Miller said. “What I’m hearing from some members of Council is that we ought to agree in perpetuity to a fixed salary. I’m opposed to that. Why should those of us who came to the Council from different backgrounds than the Borough council be penalized? It is an unfair way of handling it.”

Howard said voting to eliminate the raises from the budget would preclude the council from debating it.

Crumiller said she thought the process of budgeting for the increase via an amendment was flawed. “If we are going to increase our salaries, we should not be doing it by slipping it in and not having a discussion,” she said.

Lempert said she was voting to include the salary increases in the budget “in the spirit of moving on.”