From the Archives: Minutes from the SLH Borough Council Meetings of the Past. A collection of meeting minute excerpts pertinent to today’s community.

 

March 18, 1991: “Extending the 8% increase.”

 

 

On March 18, 1991, the Spring Lake Heights Borough Council met to discuss the 1991 Salary & Wage Ordinance. In 1990, it had been determined that all borough employees would receive an 8% salary increase. In 1991, the official meeting minutes relate this:

 

Ordinance No. 4-1991 Salary & Wage 1991

 

“Mayor Adams called on Administrator Horner who stated that when council introduced the 1991 budget they had provided salary and wage levels in all departmental appropriations that would be sufficient to extend the 8% increase provided to all contract employees to all other employees as well. The Administrator related that this included six managerial persons, full-time dispatchers, part time officials and all temporary hourly wage employees, and read the ordinance by title.”

 

When the ordinance was introduced on April 8, 1991, no member of the public spoke at the public hearing. The Ordinance was adopted with a vote of all “aye.”

 

May 1, 1989: “A 7% increase”

On May 1, 1989, the Spring Lake Heights Borough Council met to adopt the budget and take care of some other business. Among this included a discussion of what had taken place during a closed session early in the evening:

“[Councilman Jack] Tully stated that discussion in the closed session, now divulged, was to settle some 1989 salary levels for individuals who are not part of a negotiating unit. Council poll showed agreement to draft a salary ordinance for introduction at the 5/8 meeting proposing a 7% increase for those individuals.”

Previously, at the March 6 meeting, “Mayor [Frank] Adams suggested that an 8 and 1/2% raise might be appropriate but council poll showed no favor for this.”

Fortunately, even the Spring Lake Heights Council had a tipping point and, clearly, 8 and 1/2% was it. However, while they would not bite for 8 and 1/2%, the Council did vote for 7% across the board raises for the next two years in a row.

The 1989 Salary & Wage Ordinance, complete with 7% raises, passed on May 22, 1989.

March 23, 1992: “Raises of 6.34% to all”

The introduction of the 1992 Salary & Wage Ordinance was held on March 23, 1992. According to the meeting minutes: Ordinance No. 5-1992 Salary and Wage 1992  “Administrator Horner read the ordinance by title which effectively grants negotiated across the board raises of 6.34% to all employees and Mayor Adams opened the discussion.”

All Councilpersons vote ‘aye’ to move the ordinance forward.

 On April 13, 1992, no one speaks at the public hearing. On a motion by Councilmen Art Herner and Jack Tully, it is moved to a final reading. Only Councilman Frank Russo-Alesi votes “no” against it. All others vote ‘aye.’ Borough employees receive a 6 an 3/4% salary increase.

February 18, 1992 and additional dates: “Retirement Package: 58% increase in 3 years”

AT a February 18, 1992 special meeting, the members of the Borough Council present were: Mayor Frank Adams, Councilmen Art Herner, Frank Russo-Alesi, Jack Tully, George Bruton, and Michael Clark. Councilman Elwood Malick was absent, as was Borough Attorney Robert Blasi. Borough Administrator/Deputy Clerk Frank Horner was present, as was Borough Clerk Claire Barrett

At the beginning of the meeting, a closed session was held. From the minutes, here is the account of that meeting:

“Council returned after ten minutes and Mayor Adams explained for the record that proposals for a retirement package after 25 years service for an employee were discussed. The employee would retire with a vested pension and one consideration was the payment to him for his “sick day bank” which is provided for in the Borough Code. The Attorney will finalize an agreement to be offered to the employee for signing within five days, which will include a provision that the Borough will continue to provide the employee and family with the full health care coverage paid for by the Borough until he attains sixty-five (65) years of age. Council believes that the retirement agreement will save budget money in future years as the employee will not be specifically replaced, at least in the near future. No formal actions or votes were required or taken in the closed session.”

This was not an uncommon retirement package. When Public Works Superintendent Frank Walton retired in 1987 after 33 years of service, the resolution granting his retirement package read:

Resolution #42 Resolution Accepting Retirement of Superintendent of Public Works Department and Outlining Benefits to be Given

RESOLVING that Frank Walton be permitted to retire and, in consideration of granting such permission, that he be given the following benefits: 1) that he will be entitled to any retroactive pay increase from January 1, 1987 to his final day of retirement.; 2) that he will be entitled to cash payment, upon retirement, of his accumulated sick leave credits in the amount of fifth (50%) per cent of his unused accumulated sick leave as recorded, based on his rate of pay on his effective retirement date; 3) that he shall be entitled to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Major Medical, Rider 3 benefits and dental plan benefits, all family coverage, from his effective date of retirement until he shall have attained the age of sixty years and on his attainment of sixty years of age, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Major Medical and Ride J benefits, all family coverage, shall also be continued up to his sixty-fifth year of age, as per the medical benefits code now in effect; and further resolving that his final retirement date will be determined consistent with the most benefit to him and according to PERS dictates and is expected to be on or about the date of July 1, 1987.

The roll call vote to accept this retirement package was: AYES: Bruton, Tully, Tisch, Whitworth, Herner, Malick. NAYS: None.

So, granting full paid health benefits to an employee retiring prior to age 65 appears to have been the standard proceedure, and may have save money as the Borough would not have spent as much on benefits as on salaries.

However, what happened if the retiree got both?

After the discussion of February 18, 1992, at the February 24, 1992 regular meeting of the Council, it is announced that the police chief will be retiring. On a motion by Tully/Russo-Alesi, the mayor is authorized to sign an agreement. According to the meeting minutes:

“The agreement will provide the full health benefit package … for 15 years until he becomes 65 years of age, and also includes a 1992 salary increase of 15%.”

The minutes went on to note that the Chief would “also be entitled to a 50% payout of his accumulated sick leave bank.”

All council members voted “aye.”

The full health benefits granted in 1992 for 15 years means that taxpayers paid for these benefits through 2007.

Since the pension payment is calculated on the best 3 years that someone worked, and the raises in 1990 and 1991 were 8%, the retiree’s final pension was based on: an 8% raise in 1990 plus a 9% longevity raise; an 8% raise in 1991 plus a 9% longevity raise; a 15% raise in 1992 plus a 9% longevity raise.

This equals a 58% salary increase over 3 years.

April 12, 1993: “The taxpayers should not have to pay”

The SLH Borough Council met on May 10, 1993 to hold the public hearing for that year’s Salary & Wage Ordinance. The governing body consisted of: Mayor Frank Adams, Councilmen Frank Russo-Alesi, Jack Tully, George Bruton, Michael Clark, Art Herner, and Elwood Malick.

One resident spoke at the public hearing. According to the meeting minutes:

“Winnie Walsh, Jason Drive, asked % of increase. Mayor responded that a 6% increase had been negotiated with the Department of Public Works and that same percentage had been give to all other employees. She commented that in these times, it is too high and the taxpayers should not have to pay when they have nothing to say in the negotiations. Questioned health insurance for employees, feels employees should absorb some of that cost.”

After Mrs. Walsh spoke, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance with no changes. All employees received a 6% pay increase.

May 8, 1989: “…Limit voice participation of an individual.”

Currently, the SLH Borough Council has two “Voice of the Public” sessions. But a look back to 1989 shows that the Council was not always so interested in public participation.

On May 8, 1989, the Council passed Resolution No. 43-1989 To Limit Participation of Public Speakers. According to the approved meeting minutes:

“Administrator Horner read the resolution by title and Mayor Adams opened the discussion on the item which will limit voice participation of an individual to 5 minutes on a subject and total voice on one subject to 15 minutes.

On Motion by Tully/Bruton it was moved to adoption.

Roll Call AYES: Four NAYS: Malick, Whitworth

Tully stated that the Mayor has always been extremely fair in giving the public a chance to voice their opinions and would be the same in the future, but that the item was offered allowing council to maintain order and efficiency on rare occasions when needed. ”

The resolution served to limit the amount of time and number of residents seeking to voice their opinion at a meeting. Limiting individuals to a total speaking time of 5 minutes is not unheard of, but limiting the discussion of one issue to 15 minutes would conceivably prevent many residents from voicing their opinions. This limits the participation of private citizens in government.

It is uncertain how long this policy was enforced, but the current Council does not follow it.

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