Princeton Council Members to Vote on Raises for Themselves Tonight

Simon on raises for elected officials: "We made promises to our constituents."
Simon on raises for elected officials: “We made promises to our constituents.”

The Princeton Council is slated to decide tonight whether to approve raises for the governing body, a contentious issue that elected officials have debated on and off over the past year. The public meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room at the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street.

Council members Patrick Simon, Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler oppose the increase because the salary recommendations approved by both governing bodies before consolidation and presented to the voters called for the lower Princeton Borough pay rate for governing body members.

Council members Lance Liverman, Heather Howard, and Bernie Miller, and Mayor Liz Lempert have voiced support for the raises.

Livermansaid it is not fair that he and Miller saw their pay decrease as a result of consolidation. He also has argued that the $2,500 salary increase for council members per year would be an incentive for lower income people to run for council.

Crumiller said she would support an increase that is commensurate with the salary increase for town staff members. Council President Bernie Miller objected to that suggestion. Lempert, who voted along with Miler, Liverman and Howard at a council meeting earlier this year to add the salary increases to the budget via an amendment, said the council pay has not been increased for many years and it should not be tied to staff salary increases.

If the salary resolution is approved, the pay for council members would increase from $7,500 a year to $10,000 a year. The council president would receive $12,250 a year, a $5,000 increase over the $7,500 the council president receives now. Lempert’s salary would increase from $15,000 to $17,500 per year.

Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi wrote a memo last week in which he justifies the raises.

“It would seem appropriate to give serious consideration to raise the annual salary stipend to at least the levels that were discussed,” Bruschi wrote. “I would argue that there is significant rationale for a stipend in excess of what is being considered.”

Bruschi then advises the council to not to focus on the fact that the salary decision was made during consolidation or that it applies to current council members. He then repeats Liverman’s argument that the existing pay rate eliminates lower-income residents from deciding to run for local office.

He also suggests that the governing body tie its salaries in the future to the increases it gives staff members. He suggests that elected officials should receive the same increase in the rate of pay each year that employees receive.

Following is chart Bruschi submitted to the Princeton Council comparing what other elected officials receive in other towns. The first column of numbers is the mayor’s salary. The second is the council president. The third column is the annual pay for council members: