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Incentive Raises to Village Management, Non-Union Staff Increase

Council outvotes Aronsohn, who objected to the council increasing the amount of "incentive raises" management and non-union staff could receive in new salary model

Against the objections of Councilman Paul Aronsohn and one outspoken resident, the council amended its that provides for retroactive to its top management and non-union staff.

In its original passage approved in July, the dual ordinances froze salaries of the non-union personnel to zero percent raises. But it did set aside 2 percent of total non-union salaries – just over $85,000 – for retroactive "incentive bonuses" for the years of 2010 and 2011. After an evaluation and review, the personnel could each receive up to a total of four percent of the pool as an addition to their base salary in 2010 and 2011.

On Wednesday night, that number jumped to up to a 4 percent increase each year, which then raises the base salary of the worker going forward.

Prior to the ordinances, raises of up to 6 percent were common and not based on performance, said Deputy Mayor Tom Riche. "What this changes now for the first time ever is it's based on performance...if you don't perform, you get zero. Those that do perform get between 0 and 4 percent." 

The ordinances have been hailed by some members of the council as a new benchmark in government, and they were an honorable mention award for "innovation in government".

But Wednesday night's discussion mirrored those of the past – debate over what's appropriate compensation, equality in compensation between union and non-union staff, and what qualifies as leadership in challenging economic times.

"We know taxpayer money doesn't grow on trees," said Aronsohn, who was again outvoted 4-1. "Yet when it comes to salary increases, the highest paid in our government, we just keep giving it out. I just don't understand it." 

His colleagues provided a list of reasons they felt made "Ordinance 3312" and "Ordinance 3313" good municipal law.

In the past, Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh said it's important to attract and retain talent, which the ordinances aid in. On Wednesday, she added that only rewarding unions with negotiated raises of 3 percent and 4 percent not based on performance "isn't fair," Walsh said. "I don't think that anybody works less than anybody else does," she said.

"When you talk about management and feel the management shouldn't get a raise, I think that goes back to – are they doing their job, are they performing all the goals of their job descriptions and what would make them want to stay in Ridgewood if they weren't being treated as fairly as those that have negotiated contracts?"

It was a point Mayor Keith Killion latched onto.

"My opinion every one of these council people had no problem approving raises for every union membership in this town," said Killion, a former police officer. "If you're truly looking out for the taxpayer's money, then I find an inconsistency, an inconsistency I can't accept."

"If you want to talk about consistency, you're talking about 3 percent increases, 4 percent increases, this body gave the this year," Aronsohn rebutted. "That is wholly inconsistent."

"Leaders should lead by example," added Aronsohn in his disapproval, saying that retroactive bonuses to 2010, a year of increased taxes and the , was not something that settled well with him.

He contended the pool of money would be better spent on some of the more substantive problems in the village, pointing out ongoing issues with flood management, pedestrian safety woes and accessibility challenges.

Resident Ed Feldsott was so incensed he asked the council if the citizens could rescind the ordinance, which he reported was panned by residents he'd spoken with.

"It amazed me that only one member of the Village Council, Paul Aronsohn, felt these increases were irresponsible and not warranted," Feldsott told Patch.

"We need leaders who lead by example. If they are going to ask our teachers, police and fire department to take cuts, they should not be voting increases to non-union workers."

Short of casting his ballot in May there's nothing to be done about it, the council told Feldsott.

Reached for comment after the meeting, Village Manager Ken Gabbert explained that the pool of money has actually shrunk by a few thousand dollars because of a reduced labor pool. He has already completed reviews and evaluations, he said. Around 25 personnel are eligible for incentive bonuses, Gabbert noted.

A detailed report on who received what level of compensation will be provided to the council at the next meeting, Dec. 7.

Melvin Freedenberg November 10, 2011 at 12:56 PM
The citizens of Ridgewood are just going to have to wait this out. Paul Aronsohn and his supporters are just going to have to wait until election time. What we as Ridgewood citizens need do is to make sure that we get people sufficiently interested and pro-active to get them to the polls in a drive to topple the present village administration. Vote the bums out!
RdgwdGRock November 10, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Agreed, the current Mayor and Village Manager are disappointing, along with the Council (except for Paul Aronsohn). We the People will remember at the next election.
Oliver Train November 10, 2011 at 01:27 PM
I think anyone would agree that basing compensation on performance is certainly the right thing to do - even in tough times. The employees potentially getting raises were not the cause of the bad times, they are the victims of them like everybody else. I suspect that many of us have been in similar situations - why should my bonus be cut because some trading group in Europe lost a bunch of money trashing the firm's performance as a whole? I was the guy here until 2:am every day keeping the lights on... Ultimately, this is my main argument against the Village having employees at all. The Manager and the Council should be negotiating contracts with vendors, not dealing with employees and Unions. We'll end up paying more in good times, and less in bad - and that's fair to everybody. Municipal government (at least ours) should be about getting things done, not about headcount and bonuses.
Felicia Angus November 10, 2011 at 01:54 PM
"Innovation in government" for paying bonuses when someone just does their job, and not paying them when they don't? Serious? How about acting like the rest of the world and paying bonuses for outperformance and firing when they don't do their job? Thank you Paul for trying to be a voice of reason. This is the worst economy any of us have lived through, yet somehow our council thinks it's all a lark..that the taxpayers that are losing their jobs in droves can keep shelling out and shelling out. Come on...let's get some fiscal responsibility going here please!
Dot November 10, 2011 at 02:37 PM
We think the council should rethink where the extra money comes for the raises, etc. We hope the Village of Ridgewood will apply for more state aide. We don't like the only answer the Village council has is to raise the town's taxes to cover the budgets. We are already taxed enough and our house values are down. With a lot of people out of work and working 2 jobs to pay our taxes, we need a break
Franklin B. Wimer Jr. November 10, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Given that the Village raised its taxes by over 7% this year, an outrageous multiple of the 2% cap, any expenditure should be closely scrutinized for cost benefit. Most people in private industry have had their annual increases or bonuses reduced or eliminated during these tough economic times. Most private industry incentive payments do not factor into the salary base used for calculating retirement benefits or subsequent year salaries. How is a 4% payment for 2010 that becomes part of the salary base for all future years considered reasonable in light of private industry practices or provide a benefit to the taxpayers? It will also be interesting to see if these incentive bonuses truly discriminate on the basis of performance or are simply paid to all.
JV November 10, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Raises for high-quality performance are not unreasonable. Giving them retroactively is more than a little difficult to understand. We're heading toward 2012, not going back to 2010 - or does the council know something that the rest of us do not?
RdgwdGRock November 10, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Ridgewood has a wayback machine
The Flea November 10, 2011 at 04:28 PM
"Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh said it's important to attract and retain talent, which the ordinances aid in." Perhaps Ms. Walsh can tell us which employee has so much talent, and is threatening to leave and must be retained with this ordinance. Also who are we trying to attract? You laid off a number of more than qualified employees, who else do we need to attract and for what position? As for the mayor, his union made it possible for him to retire with a $100,000 a year pension.
James Kleimann November 10, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Hi everyone, A poll has been created on this topic. Head over to http://ridgewood.patch.com/articles/poll-are-the-incentive-raises-for-management-a-good-move and cast your vote.
Ridgewood Mom November 10, 2011 at 06:05 PM
An who measures "performance?" Ken Gabbert and his buddies who appointed him? Does he get to measure his own performance as well? And grant himself another raise if he deems it right? Give me a break!!! We are not talking "basing compensation on performance." We are talking about the dismantling of a due process for professionals, who by definition have the greatest degree of expertise within their professions, in favor of deferring expertise to a bunch of political cronies. This is CRONYISM. Plain and simple. Where is the performance rubric for Ken Gabbert? Does it involve showing up for work during the course of a major disaster???!

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