The mayor of Newark and nearly 30 other city employees may be on track to become among the highest paid municipal workers in the state.
Under a the plan proposed by the mayor and administrators, the city would increase salary ranges for top department heads, including the mayor.
Among the proposed hikes, Mayor Ras Baraka’s salary would get bumped up about $50,000, to $180,000. Director of Public Safety Anthony Ambrose’s salary would range from $190,000 to $260,000. The director of Public Health and Wellness’s salary from $100,00 to $190,000 and the director of Public Works’s salary from $100,000 to $225,000.
The city’s communications director Frank Baraff said in a statement Thursday, “The salaries being increased are specifically non-union positions.” The statement continues, “those positions have not received a pay increase in ten years.”
The proposal comes less than a year after the city was released from state oversight of its finances.
“When we look the conditions of the city, when we look at all the problems we have, understaffed on so many levels, when it comes to code enforcement, police, fire. When you look at the streets not being swept, we can’t deal with a five-inch snow storm, you know. It shuts the town down,” said Louis Shockley, a former city employee and Newark community activist. “For them to proposing these kind of outrageous salaries, and with the water crisis — which is the most important thing going on now — it’s just outrageous.”
Shockley says the proposed salary hikes are irresponsible and that before handing out raises, city employees’ resumes should be made public.
“Get the resumes, put in the resumes for these people in the people in the top spots, and you’ll see they’re not qualified,” said Shockley.
But Anibal Ramos, councilman for the city’s North Ward, says the salary increases would be an incentive to keep the best people in those positions.
“The ranges, again, allow the mayor and the administration the flexibility to set salaries, to be in the position to recruit,” said Ramos. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean because you set a range for a department head. Most of those department heads fall in that range today, and part of the requirement moving forward that they are going to have to notify us if there is an increase in salary.”
But not everyone supports of the salary boost. Some say the money could be used in other ways.
“They saying there’s no money in Newark, they don’t have money to shelter the homeless, they don’t have money to, you know, provide the schools with the books and pencils that they need,” said Newark resident Sharmel Lee. “But you got a lot of people that are sitting in these chairs that are getting a lot of money that don’t deserve it.”
The plan must still be approved by the city council. Shockley is now reaching out to the attorney general to try and put a stop to the raises that he believes will hurt the city — not help it.