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Ridgewood Issues Retroactive Salary Raises

Controversial retroactive 'incentive raises' handed out to management, non-union staff total about $75,000

Passed against the wishes of one council member and a vocal group of residents, the village has mailed checks to non-union and management staff for though many contend they're little more than bonuses issued in troubled times.

the village utilized general operating funds to pool "incentive" raises of up to 4 percent retroactive for both 2010 and 2011.

The retroactive salary incentive figures were obtained by an Open Public Records Act request.

According to the list, a total of 21 employees received compensation, ranging from $362 (Parking Enforcement Officer Doug Randolph) to $7,598 (Streets Dept. head John Spano) between 2010 and 2011.

The total pool – just north of $75,000 – has been reduced from the original figures, according to Village Manager Ken Gabbert.

A sum of just over $85,000 had been allocated to the fund but because some personnel "did not have an opportunity for the full two year incentive," the pool was reduced, he said. Additionally, the council requested one staff member be taken out of the pool, Gabbert added.

himself received a controversial 12 percent raise in 2011; he was not eligible for a raise under ordinances 3312 and 3313.

Procedurally, staff members wrote a self evaluation which was then passed to supervisors who reviewed the evaluations and added comments.

"The staff provided their accomplishments and general goals for the rest of ’11 and at that time most also mentioned ’12," Gabbert said in an e-mail to Patch. "As Manager I met with each person and discussed performance, the goals, and the incentive increase. The maximum in any one year could have been up to 4%. I made the final determinations as to the amount of the incentive increase."

The ordinances were paired with the council electing to freeze salaries for non-union and management staff. Several said it was a way of promoting 'fairness' given that unions have seen escalating raises of around 4 percent.

Though village officials contend it's purely based on performance, some have their doubts.

One staff member, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, said the raises amounted to pure political patronage.

"If the village manager likes you, you got a nice Christmas present," the worker told Patch. "If he didn't, you got bupkus or close to bupkus."

One qualifying staff member did in fact get zero – Parking Enforcement Officer Peter Taylor.

Others also received low marks.

Deputy Director Nancy Bigos received a paltry 0.75 percent raise in each 2010 and 2011, among the lowest totals of those who qualified. Only Tony Merlino, the Building Inspector and Zoning Board Secretary, received less, adding about $550 each year, a 0.5 percent increase.

Director of Operations – and head of embattled Ridgewood Water – Frank Moritz notched a 1.25 percent incentive raise for each of the past two years, clearing an additional $3,902. Mary Jo Gilmour, the tax collector, received a 1.0 percent increase each year, worth $2,076.

On the other side of the coin, Maria Doerr, the Administrator, received an increase of 3.75 percent each year, totaling $4,967. Likewise, Gabbert's secretary, Claire Schrumpf, received 3.75 percent and a total of $5,023 between both years.

The average raise allocated was around 2.0 percent, with dollar amounts based on the respective employee's base salary.

passed 4-1, with .

"We know taxpayer money doesn't grow on trees," said Aronsohn, who was also the lone no vote to giving Gabbert a raise. "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."

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

The following year, 2011, saw a and large-scale needs like storm damage recovery needing to be addressed though more workers were added to the payroll.

Prior to the ordinances, raises of up to 6 percent were common and not based on performance, Deputy Mayor Tom Riche said in November.

"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 figures are as follows:

NON-UNION

Name 2010 Increase;  % 2011 Increase;   % Janet Fricke $1,953             2.95 $2010                2.95 Claire Schrumpf $2,465             3.75  $2,558               3.75 Stephanie Evans $0                      0.0 N/A                    N/A Kris Hayes $1,601               2.5 $1,641                2.5 Julia Raymond $870                  2.0 $888                   2.0 Chris Foxon $574                  1.5 $583                   1.5 Peter Taylor $0                      0.0 $0                       0.0 Doug Randolph $180                  1.0 $182                   1.0


MANAGEMENT

Name 2010 Increase;   % 2011 Increase;   % Frank Moritz $1,939              1.25 $1,963              1.25
Chris Rutishauser $3,217                2.5 $3,298                2.5
Michael Barker $1,915                1.5
$1,994                1.5 Tony Merlino $554                    0.5 $557                   0.5 Tim Cronin $2,086                 2.0 $2,128                2.0 John Spano $3,734                 3.5 $3,864                3.5
Dylan Hansen $1,929               2.45 $1,976              2.45
Eric Fooder N/A                     N/A $2,880                3.0
Steven Sanzari $2,545                 2.5 $2,609                2.5
Dave Schiebner $1,436                 1.5 $1,457                1.5
Mary Jo Gilmour $1,033                 1.0 $1,043                1.0
Robert Gillow $2,486                 2.5 $2,548                2.5
Dawn Cetrulo $1,715               2.45
$1,757              2.45
Nancy Bigos $690                   0.75 $695                 0.75
Maria Doerr $2,438               3.75 $2,529              3.75
Blais Brancheau $1,125                 2.0 $1,147                2.0



Ridgewood Mom January 04, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I don't necessarily disagree Craig. Things have gone wrong. In particular after the last freeze over. I would rather a flat raise for Village employees to keep pace with inflation, which makes more sense for this type of public sector work IMO. This fad of private sector modeling for public sector work strikes me as ineffective.
The Flea January 04, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Are they bonuses or are they raises? I would think a raise would become part of their base salary which would increase the amount of their pensions. Bonuses should not. I'd also like Ritche to let us know who in the Village received 6% raises in the past 10 years.
James Kleimann January 04, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Hey Flea, Yep, they increase the base salary so are considered "raises".
Rock January 04, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Well, since the raises are retroactive there is an initial lump sum payment as well.....so it "looks" like a bonus.
Bill Connor January 05, 2012 at 01:38 AM
agree with David and Craig. We live not in normal times.The Fact that those trusted to Manage this type of Spending increase felt that this was the right decision tells all. Ridgewood wake up.We are not competitive on cost basis/taxes are far too high. Alot of Good things are still happening here- salaries to be Paid.bonuses. NOT. Where would these employees Go ? thats the reality for all now. Great town still ..yet with taxes too high and climbing- we should be very concerned. Bill Connor
George Orwell January 05, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I have a question. How does the town put aside the $$ every year to cover the eventual unused sicktime accrued by it's school teachers and other entitled employees? This is not a rant; I am just curious as to the procedure that the town has in place so as to not incur HUGE unfunded expenses. Going forward, any new contracts should mandate that any/all unused sicktime is paid out at the end of the fiscal year.
Craig Hueneke January 05, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Hi George- How about we address the whole unused sick day thing like they do in the "real world"... If you don't use em, you lose em'. Not to sound like a crazy revolutionist... But as the tax payers it is OUR obligation to rise up and break the back of this monster because if we don't then I hate to say it, that it will no doubt he our backs (an wallets) that will be broken.
Craig Hueneke January 05, 2012 at 02:42 AM
ON ANOTHER BUT RELATED NOTE - General Washington once stated: "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of governments. But the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the WHOLE PEOPLE, is sacredly obligatory UPON ALL" Now THAT is just simply AWESOME! (235 years later and it still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up! LOL)
Aannoomm January 05, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Please take a look at the Ridgewood Views blog. Ridgewood's union contracts were just made public. Interesting reading....
Craig Hueneke January 05, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Thanks Aannoom for giving me heartburn right before going to bed! LOL.. C
Ridgewood Mom January 05, 2012 at 01:05 PM
What is so bothersome about what is in those documents?
Ridgewood Mom January 05, 2012 at 01:14 PM
If we require teachers to use all of their sick days, or lose them, then we will pressure teachers to take more days off on average then they are currently doing, which is bad for the quality of student-teacher relationships and more costly then paying for their unused sick days. This is because paying for unused sick time costs the system less then the cost of hiring a substitute for the days that a teacher is out. Sick days are a sensible precautionary system that allows schools to function better and cheaper. The canard of teachers being greedy is well worn out. They constitute some of the least well paid professionals, for there level of qualifications, to be found. The "real world" is a more diverse place than some people understand.
Aannoomm January 05, 2012 at 01:22 PM
That's just it... Nothing! The union negotiations were the justification for Gabbert's raise. Evidently, he had done such a great job at negotiations that he warranted an unprecedented raise at a time of great financial turmoil. There is nothing in these contracts that is impressive enough fro a raise of any sort!
The Flea January 05, 2012 at 01:35 PM
"The staff provided their accomplishments and general goals for the rest of ’11 and at that time most also mentioned ’12," Gabbert said. Perhaps Mr. Gabbert should share some of those accomplishments and especially those goals the staff provided so we taxpayers can get an idea which way our Village is headed.
Erika Frank January 05, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I agree with Craig regarding Tony Merlino. He is unethical even to Village homeowners. Example: He made me pay $40 for a permit for a portable swing set in my backyard. Then he tried to tell me I had to renew the permit for the swing set every year. What a joke! I'm probably the only fool in Ridgewood that paid his department a $40 fee for a portable swing set and I'd like my money back now that he got his raise since, as I explained to him, portable swing sets do not require a permit, but he made me pay anyway. I told him there was no way I was paying a renewal fee unless he went to every homeowner with a swing set in Ridgewood and made them pay as well. Meanwhile, he doesn't make other families pay for permanent structures such as tool sheds, etc., sometimes. Spano is pretty useless as well and I speak from personal experience.
Rock January 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I think this is one element of the need for moving to a higher level of professionalism for teachers -- which includes moving beyond the clock punching union member. Specifically, sick days are there for use when sick. Not as additional vacation time, nor as a means for additional compensation. If you're not sick, you dont take the time off -- but that doesnt mean you get to 'cash it in'. It appears if one thinks that teachers will "use their sick days more" that view is not consistent with the desired attitude of a salaried professional. In the private sector, repeated absences lead to dismissal -- and is not based on a formula of whether they "used all their sick days". Teachers appear to cast themselves as professionals vs. the private sector in terms of compensation -- but when the differences between their profession and the private sector are highlighted (tenure, pensions, merit based pay, etc)....its back to the union talking points
Oliver Train January 06, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I've always wondered why the taxpayers don't get to see public-sector Union contracts at the ballot box. The Union members get to vote up or down what their negotiators have accomplished for them, why not the people paying the bills? I think a lot of the angst currently directed towards Unions would evaporate if there were an open and inclusive process around their contracts rather than the closed-door, corrupt mess that exists today.
Oliver Train January 06, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I read a few of the contracts on the Views blog, and all I can say is WOW! Take a look at the Sick Leave provisions... Employees generally get more Sick days than vacation days - 12(!!!) to START. In addition, if the employee does not use a Sick day in a particular quarter, they get additional Sick time. So, really it's 16(!!!!!!) per year to start, and employees are incentivised to not use them. In the contracts I read, Vacation days can only be carried over for a year or two, but Sick days seem to live forever...even in death - If an employee dies their estate is entitled to collect on the "banked" days. As a business owner, that's completely unnecessary, and as a tax payer that's outrageous!
Ridgewood Mom January 07, 2012 at 01:16 AM
In most public sector contexts, a system involving sick days that can be saved up and cashed in costs less then a system of hiring substitute employees whenever regular employees are sick because sick days that are cashed in are worth less then a full day's pay and this generally costs less then the per deum rate of the substitute. It's brilliantly thought out, really. As you said, there is also usually an incentive not to use sick days, which works to keep things as productive and value driven as possible by functioning as a disincentive to people calling in sick when not sick. Remember that it's more expensive when they really are sick, by no fault of theirs. Teh whole sick day thing is about being prepared in the most economical way for whether an employee is in or out on any particular day. People who want to cut into public employee sick days usually either don't understand the nature of the work or else just want to cut into the salary/benefits of those working people and are looking for some creative sort of way or doing so. Or both.
Pete Malvasi January 07, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Bonuses for performance can be a very good idea in local government but from what I have seen in several cases there is little managerial bench strength by those deciding the bonuses. The sense I get is they read about these things but have no experience in executing this competently. And handing out bonuses based on poor metrics is worse than none. Local governments need more people with business experience and less from the legal profession. Bonuses should be keyed to explicit, measureable gains in the efficiency of municipal function. And if you can't measure it - don't offer a bonus and send management back to business school to learn how.
Ridgewood Mom January 07, 2012 at 02:13 PM
The general functioning of the public sector has had almost nothing to do with the recent economic failure. That is the rather exclusive providence of the private sector. Of no coincidence, it is there that we find the range of salaries from sweatshop worker to CEO. You can take away an employee's sick days. You can take away other benefits. You can take away salary or raises. To the employee the end result is the same. They get less for the amount work they are doing. To be clear, I did not say that people will call in sick more if they can't use their sick days. Obviously, they would call in sick more if they had sick days that must be used or lost, as some have proposed. But what I said was that a system involving sick days is cheaper and runs more efficiently, for public employees, then a system without one. The specifics depend upon the sector. But generally, payments for unused sick days are a significantly reduced percentage (say 50%) of the payment for a normal work day, calculated as the annual salary divided by the total number of contracted "regular" work days.
Ridgewood Mom January 07, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Incentive bonuses are a great idea for small business owners, who are more or less the kings of their castles rewarding their serfs for good service. Within political and bureaucratic systems, however, they are a recipe for corruption. There, power will simply reward itself and further increase its own power by incentivising allies and punishing political enemies. Pride over merit becomes stripped as due process and a sense of equity are diminished.
Oliver Train January 07, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Ridgewood Mom - Incentives in any system can be abused, and that's a problem. Bribery, patronage, nepotism and all the other forms of corruption happen on both sides of the private/public fence. The way it's supposed to work is that everyone is answerable to somebody - the King in your analogy is responsible to his or her clients...if a business is overburdened by corruption, it wont be able to function as well as a competitor and will ultimately fail (unless of course the Government bails it out, but that's another story). In the public sector there is no realistic competition - and that's why you are essentially correct in your prediction as the world is now. In my opinion, that's why the current Public Service system is fatally flawed and has to go. All workers should be compensated based on what they do, not who they are. The current economic crisis has caused more people than usual to pay attention. And more and more, they don't like what they see. The Government must run more like a business - with the taxpayers as the owners, not the employees. Employees high and low must be accountable to somebody. Compensation, benefits, and job security must more closely match the Private sector. Most importantly, information must be freely available to anyone who wants to see it.
Pete Malvasi January 07, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Well said. I'd add one major point though re government which is unique. That is a sharp need for an open press and assurance of transparency. Perhaps one more thing - electing officials who practice straight talk. For years governments, especially small local ones like ours, have taken advantage of the lack of press and the arcaneness of process. That's all changing now and The Patch is a fabulous inroad to providing more scrutiny and public feedback. No more hiding behind the headlines from the big media who won't cover us little suburban hideouts. This will hopefully help weed out lame and talentless politicians and keep those in office in check.
Craig Hueneke January 07, 2012 at 07:06 PM
As a matter of fact is was. And as an additional matter of fact it was also taken care of. So if you're trying to shame someone, your barking up the wrong tree because unlike you I am not afraid, nor ashamed of my words, actions, and comments to where I have to hide my identity. So to the coward who wants to take cheap shots at people who for the FACTS and/or comments stated on here, or anywhere else please be "grown up" and do so with enough spine to actually stand behind your comments. On that note, if you want to question me as to why feel free to contact me.
Ridgewood Mom January 08, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Given the current situation with the economy, it seems that we would be doing much better by moving more in opposite direction from what you prescribe- reforming a failing private business model in favor of a far more successful public infrastructure model. Yes, corruption can be found everywhere. But what is being seen in government pales in its wildest fanstsies to what we have witnessed and continue to witness in financial and corporate arenas. It is literally destroying our democracy. One would think that the need for government to regulate private enterprize should be clear and obvious to all these days, with all of the damage that deregulation has done and is continuing to do. But at some point or another, inevitibly, people will have to wake up to the fact that the role of government must precede private business and not the ther way around. After all, that is what it means to "govern." I would never advocate a state run economy. Such would be an extremeist position. Of course, private industry is better than state run industry in countless ways. But it is at least as extremist of a position to think the reverse- that government itself is best as a private business. The logic should be just as obvious. Public programs often function better when run by the state and without private business influence.
Oliver Train January 08, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Actaully, I agree with you in terms of regulations. That's someting the Government can and should be doing better. I would argue though, that when the Government tries to actually do something rather then regulate or guide, is where the problems beigin. Most programs would cost less and accomplish more if they were run by the Private sector, with a profit motive. The programs that can't be done better are probably so poorly conceived that they would never work no matter who was trying. Local Government especially should govern, not employ. The Village should not have a army of workers. A Mayor & Council LISTENING to the populace, and a Village Manager with a team of department heads managing contracts and doing the books. Other than the obvious exceptions like cops and firefighters, why exactly does the Village need to be an employer? Do you really think the leaves would still be on the ground in December if the Village contracted it out to 20 Landscaping companies? How about Tony Merlino and the Building Permit office? A contract with an accountable vendor (who can be fired if they don't perform) would solve that problem. How do you measure success? What's a Public program that works in your opinion? Other than banning Lead, Apollo 11, and catching Bin Laden, what can the Government toot its horn at lately?
Ridgewood Mom January 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Oliver, I don't necessarily disagree that leaf collection might have been improved upon if 20 landscaping companies had been employed. That would depend upon which ones, some doing better and maybe doing worse. Or else, it might have functioned smoothly within the traditional public services system had the work culture been right and correct actions been taken. Its tough to predict. Again, I do not take the position that the public sector is better then the private sector. I only argue against what I see as an extreme view to the contrary. It is private sector modeling that would justify the Village manager's recent pay increase despite both a tax increase and a lessening of services to Village taxpayers. After all, while in the public sector terms the Village manager's higher salary is unusual, within the private sector this sort of discrepancy is par for the course. Indeed, the Village manager's salary is meager compared to what high level business managers with the right "skills" make. And that was the logic used to justify his raise- that it was necessary in order to keep pace in attracting private sector "level" managerial talent. And then, of course, this went hand in hand with cuts at lower levels within the Village government, claimed to save taxpayers money. And this has adversely effected the quality and value of services. The recent leaf collection issue being a prime example.
Ridgewood Mom January 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I'll add... It isn't hard to find examples of money well invested in the public sectors. Ridgewood's excellent schools, for example, highlight exceptional value. Contrast your property tax burden with the cost of tuition in a similarly competent private school. Its a no brainer. I like having my trash and recycling picked up, my leaves and such removed. Like you, I want the right to demand that it be done better. But I certainly wouldn't want to have to pay individually to have it done, on my own, outside of via my local taxes. I agree about government needing to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers (and corporations and financial institutions too for that matter). But not about slashing and privatizing all services. I much prefer living as part of a community that works together on things... like Ridgewood has so often historically been.
RdgwdGRock January 12, 2012 at 07:31 PM
upper saddle river honors Gabbert; we are soooo lucky to have him here in Ridegwood. How 'bout we "honor" him when it is time for him to leave. http://www.northjersey.com/news/137108043_Ken_Gabbert_honored_for_years_of_service_to_borough.html?c=y&page=1

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