OCEAN CITY — City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that will change the way the municipality’s seven department heads are paid starting next year.
The ordinance establishes a yearly salary range between $90,000 and $160,000 for the positions. It allows the mayor to make adjustments within the range.
Previously, City Council would vote to set compensation for each of the department heads individually in accordance with collective bargaining positions.
A couple residents questioned the new system. David Breeden said the ordinance could make salaries for the highly paid employees less transparent.
“That ordinance doesn’t identify the department heads. Who are they? How many are there?” he asked during the meeting.
“The way this is set up is backward,” Breeden added. “I’m just puzzled on why we’re not listing the department heads and minimum and maximum salary like every other town does in New Jersey.”
According to city code, the department heads are the business administrator, director of financial management, director of the department of law, director of the department of public works, director of the department of community services, the police chief and the fire chief.
Business administrator Jim Mallon said the ordinance establishes a compensation system common in many other municipalities. He said the proposal comes in the wake of salary discussions with two newer department heads.
“It is the belief of the administration that we have an excellent leadership team in place, and, if approved, this ordinance will allow us to adequately compensate each individual while remaining within the approved budget,” Mallon said.
He said the ultimate decision on any salary adjustments, whether up or down, would be made by the mayor under the new system.
Councilman Bobby Barr said he was initially uncomfortable with the ordinance but decided to vote in favor of it.
“I’ve done a little research on this, and many of our neighboring towns do this,” Barr said. “It seems to be common practice.”
At the first reading on the ordinance Nov. 16, Councilman Keith Hartzell said he was more comfortable approving department head salaries the old way but would give the new system a shot.
City resident Bill Hartranft asked officials to be reasonable when setting salaries for the department heads.
“My only concern is when you take a look at salary maximum and minimum that you look across at other shore towns and small communities,” he said. “Just stay within a range that is reasonable as opposed to looking at gold out there for everybody.”
Currently the department heads are Mallon, Police Chief Chad Callahan, director of community services Michael Allegretto, chief financial officer Frank Donato III, city solicitor Dottie McCrosson, director of public works Joe Berenato and Fire Chief James P. Smith.
Documents acquired by the Gazette indicate the department heads' salaries for 2017 were set at about $133,000 for Mallon, $101,000 for Allegretto, $114,000 for Donato, $151,000 for Callahan and $100,000 for Berenato.
McCrosson, who works part-time, was scheduled to make $90,000, and Smith $139,000 as deputy fire chief. He was promoted to chief late last year.