UNION COUNTY, NJ — Christmas is coming early this year for the Board of Chosen Freeholders. For the first time since December 2006, the Union County freeholders will be giving themselves a raise this week.
During the final freeholder meeting of 2015 on Thursday, Dec. 17, the Board of Chosen Freeholders is expected to approve what’s essentially a 4-percent pay raise for its nine members, confirmed Union County Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia.
Half of that 4-percent increase is because the salaries of all county employees, including the freeholders, will receive a standard 2-percent bump in 2016, while the other half is a freeholder-specific, “retroactive” 2-percent salary boost for 2015, when the freeholders excluded themselves from the standard raise.
“Last year, almost all employees got 2 percent. However, for some reason, they didn’t include the freeholders, so this year they took a retroactive raise,” said D’Elia, adding that the salary of every Union County employee, including the freeholders, will still benefit from a 2-percent pay raise for 2016. “It’s a standard two, we’ve had that the past few years. What they make is really comparable for the size of our municipalities. I think the freeholders are comparably paid for what our size is like.”
In 2009, the average salary for a New Jersey freeholder was $44,025, according to a report at the time from the Star-Ledger. The new base salary for Union County freeholders will climb to $30,691.80 in 2016, up from $29,500, which has been the status quo in the county for nearly a decade.
During that time, freeholders who served as Vice Chair and Chair of the Board have made an extra $1,000 and $2,000, respectively, in each year they had those temporary titles, a policy which will not be changing in 2016.
The last official pay raise for the Union County freeholders, similarly approved in the Board’s final meeting in 2006, was an increase of 5.3 percent. Since then, the county has regularly approved various 2 percent and 3 percent raises to the department heads and other employees, according to D’Elia, but not the freeholders.
The entirely Democratic freeholders, who serve three-year terms, have conducted 40 meetings at their headquarters in Elizabeth this year, where they enact legislative action and take public comments. They’re also in charge of setting the executive county budget — which in recent years has been about $500 million — working closely with 21 municipalities, and bolstering the county with other initiatives and projects.
Nine of the county’s 10 department heads will also benefit from the “retroactive” 2 percent raise for 2015, excluding the newly-hired Director of Corrections, Ronald Charles, essentially resulting in a 4-percent salary bump next year.
The ordinance will be effective Jan. 1, 2016, if approved as expected at this week’s freeholder meeting.
Department heads with the county include County Manager Alfred Faella, who in 2016 will be paid more than $167,000, the highest of the 10 positions; Director of Economic Development William Reyes, with a 2016 salary of more than $139,000, which is closer to the average salary of the department heads; and Public Safety Director Andrew Moran, whose base salary of $123,173 will be the lowest of the affected department heads.