First Selectman Jim Zeoli
For the first time ever, the Board of Selectmen discussed a personnel issue in a public forum at Wednesday night’s Selectmen’s meeting.
First Selectman Jim Zeoli did not sit at the table with the board as they discussed salary increases for the Town Clerk, Tax Collector and First Selectman.
Last month the personnel committee met, according to Selectman Joe Blake, and discussed bring these salaries up to be compatible with neighboring communities.
The average salary for Town Clerk is $71,000, which is substantial, he said. The Town Clerk and Tax Collector have not received a pay increase in 4 years.
Blake said he felt it was time they got a raise. Both receive $55,866 which is not compatible to the other towns, which should be closer to $65,000.
First Selectman’s salary is $82,043 in Orange and this position is equivalent to being the CEO of a $65 million corporation. It should be closer to $95,000.
The three people currently in these positions will not necessarily receive the raises, but whomever wins the municipal election in November would benefit from the salary increase.
The Town Clerk’s salary increase would be effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The Tax Collector will receive the increased amount after he or she is elected.
Current Town Clerk Pat O’Sullivan said that every year the Town Clerk and Tax Collector go to the personnel committee and make a request. “Some Town Clerk’s receive between $85,000 and $125,000,” he said.
He suggested these key positions should have a pension plan and insurance after retirement which they do not now have.
Selectman Ralph Okenquist, a member of the personnel committee, said the these three employees have not received raises in years and they all took furlough days a couple of years ago just like all the other town employees, so they deserve the proposed increases.
Selectman Mitch Goldblatt said he did his own research and thought that the proposed increases were excessive.
He provided paperwork from his comparison of like towns and the First Selectman should receive $79,176, slightly lower than the current salary in Orange. He said elected Town Clerks in similar towns received $69,491.
When challenged by O’Sullivan, a longtime elected town employee, Goldblatt said he did not feel that length of service of Orange’s elected officials should determine their salaries.
His proposal was for a $60,335 salary for both the Town Clerk and Tax Collector and $88,606 for the First Selectman.
Selectman John Carangelo said he thought the services these individuals provide are extremely valuable to the town and suggested the Board of Selectmen go with the personnel committee’s proposed salary increases.
Goldblatt addressed the four year salary lull like this: There was a salary set for all three positions for the term of four years ago, “So it’s not quite fair to say they didn’t get an increase on the second year of that term because they wouldn’t have. The only time they did not get an increase is this current term they are all serving in.”
Goldblatt said the First Selectman of the town of Orange makes more than the Mayor of East Haven, and West Haven and he could not agree to the huge increase being proposed for that position.
Town Attorney Vincent Marino jumped in and said that the cities of East and West Haven both have administrative staff members who get paid a good salary and take a lot of the burden off off the Mayors.
Goldblatt said the numbers that the personnel committee came up with reflected 16% which was much too high.
Zeoli broke his silence and stated that Woodbridge had First Selectman Ed Sheehy plus a chief administrative officer and full time finance officer.
“Guilford’s first selectman makes $105,000 and his Human Resources person makes another $89,000 plus benefits,” he said. “Orange doesn’t have one.”
Zeoli outlined the things he has to take care of on his own every day: oversees HR; daily meetings with finance; meet with Board of Education; oversee construction of Edison Road; Meet with the town engineer – know what’s going on in town and keep everyone informed.
“The First Selectman of Orange is a very hands-on individual,” he said. “I am not complaining, I love the job, I love this town, but a sheet (with figures) is a sheet, and I can provide you with everything you need to know. We have police officers who’ve been on the job for 2 years who make more than your first selectman.”
The board voted to table the decision until the June meeting.