Twp. Council majority postpones administrator pay discussion

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By Charles Kim

WEST MILFORD – “We’ll get back to you on that” seems to be the position of the majority of Township Council members regarding how much it may be willing to pay a new full time administrator.

Mayor Michele Dale tried to get the governing body to establish a salary range for the position of administrator after it terminated the contract of Antoinette Battaglia during its last meeting Dec. 19.

“Before beginning a search for a full time administrator, the council needs to establish a salary range,” Dale said Wednesday night. “It is my intent to have a salary ordinance introduced at the next meeting.”

A majority of the members, however, refused to discuss the range until they could get more information about what the going rate is for the position in surrounding towns.

“I think we are putting the cart before the horse,” Councilman Lou Signorino said. “To put it out there now doesn’t make sense.”

Battaglia was appointed to perform the functions of that position as well as being the township clerk by former Mayor Bettina Bieri, a Democrat, in 2015 and was supposed to serve until the end of this year.

The council decided on Dec. 19 to terminate her contract for that position, which paid “a stipend” of about $38,000 per year in addition to the $94,000 salary Battaglia has as clerk.

During the Dec. 19 meeting, Signorino said the governing body should end Battaglia’s dual role and move back to a full time clerk to better serve the township of about 27,000 people.

The council voted 5-1 to end the contract and pay Battaglia three months of that stipend.

“I think we should go through the interview process,” Councilwoman Andie Pegel said.

Pegel, a small business owner said that the mayor should just advertise that the position would pay “commensurate” with the applicant’s experience, like she would in her own business.

Dale, however, said that most applicants that would be qualified for the job would probably want to know the salary range before applying.

“Most public sector employees look at that before applying for that,” Dale said.

Signorino said the town has the historical data to give applicants an idea of what the municipality has paid in the past that would give them an idea of a range of pay.

Dale said she wanted to get an advertisement for the position as soon as possible.

Under the township’s form of government, the position is Dale’s appointment with advice and consent of the council.

Pegel said that the council could research what surrounding towns are paying and come back at the next meeting to discuss the issue.

Dale said she would get an ad for the position out there “as soon as I can.”

Members of the public attending the meeting expressed their concerns about terminating Battaglia with her $38,000 stipend for the job to get someone that could be paid a great deal more for the work.

Resident Mike Chazukow said he didn’t see why the council terminated Battaglia and thinks that the move will only lead to higher taxes.

“I’m very, very much concerned about the price tag,” Chazukow said. “I don’t want (my mother on a fixed income) to pay for another bureaucrat.”

Chazukow said the council should have worked all the details out and had someone already hired before terminating Battaglia’s contract.

“I don’t see how this is conservative, we are all Republicans here,” he said. “I always thought Republicans were for lower taxes and smaller government. I don’t see this action on that trajectory.”

He said he doesn’t understand what the council is doing regarding the administrator’s position and “I don’t think the taxpayers do either.”

Previously, Dale has said having Battaglia in the position with her stipend saved the town about $104,000 per year as compared to paying for two full time positions.

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