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Township Council Tables Proposed Raises For Fire District 3 Commissioners

Approves raises asked for by commissioners in other three fire districts.

Councilman Brian Regan

Deputy Mayor Brian Regan questioned the proposed salary hikes for Fire District 3 commissioners.

Agreeing that commissioners should appear at a meeting and explain why they feel they need a more than $100 a year raise, the Township Council Jan. 7 tabled approval for the proposed 2014 salaries for Fire District 3’s five commissioners.

The council did, however, approve proposed raises for commissioners in fire districts 1, 2 and 4.

Although fire district operations are paid for through a separate fire district tax approved by voters each February, state law mandates that a town’s governing body approve of salaries paid the districts’ fire commissioners.

Fire District 3 includes the areas covered by Community Fire Company on Hamilton Street and East Franklin Volunteer Fire Company on Pine Grove Avenue.

The five commissioners asked for 2014 salaries of $7,428 each, a $144 increase from their 2013 salaries of $7,284.

That didn’t sit well with Deputy Mayor Brian Regan (D-At Large).

“I have gotten input from other fire commissioners in other fire districts who have expressed concern about the increase of salaries) for District 3, Regan said.

“Fire District 3 is not the largest fire district in the township,” he said. “They don’t have the most fire houses, yet their salaries eclipse the other by what some would think” is a lot of money.

The commissioners in Fire District 1 – which includes the areas covered by the Elizabeth Avenue Volunteer Fire Company on Wiley Drive, the  Middlebush Volunteer Fire Department on Olcott Street, the Millstone Valley Fire Department on Amwell Road and Somerset Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company No. 1 on Hollywood Avenue – are asking for 2014 salaries of $5,000 each for the four commissioners and $6,500 for the chairman.

In Fire District 2 – which includes the Franklin Park Fire Company on Claremont Road, the Griggstown Volunteer Fire Company on Canal Road and the Little Rocky Hill Volunteer Fire Company on Route 27 – the five commissioners are asking for $5,000 each.

Fire District 4 includes the Kingston Volunteer Fire Company on Heathcote Road; its commissioners are asking for salaries of $300 each.

Fire district elections are slated for Feb. 15.

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) noted that he “has a constituent who was complaining about how little notice there was of the fire district budget vote.”

He said salaries for commissioners in districts 1 and 3 have tripled over the last 15 years, while commissioner salaries in district 2 have doubled in that time period.

“This seems to be more than the cost of living increases over that time,” Chase said.

“I wonder how much time the commissioners spend being commissioners,” he said. “Fire District 3 is now approaching the salary level of the Township Council.”

Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) suggested that the fire district commissioners would “benefit” if they advertised their elections more, “or advertised a meeting where their budget is being discussed.”

Councilwoman Roz Sherman (D-Ward 2) suggested that the council “see what other commissioners are paid and see if these (salaries) are in line.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said that every year when the fire district commissioner salaries come up, there’s a debate among council members over how the fire districts differ from each other.

“In past years, because these are people who give of their time, I’ve always been agreeable to what what they’ve asked for,” she said.

Saying he would “take the bold step and deal with whatever comes from it,” Regan moved to vote down the proposed salaries for District 3 commissioners. He later amended the language to propose holding the commissioners to their 2013 salary levels.

The council then decided to table the vote on the District 3 salaries and ask the commissioners to come to a future council meeting and explain why they want a raise.

 

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