Opinion: Mayor, City Council in Ocean City, NJ, Doubling Their Salaries
Being mayor and on city council in Ocean City are part-time government jobs but there is a new ordinance being voted on that will double their salaries, the first significant increase since 2010.
Ordinance No. 23-20 proposes to raise the maximum base salaries of Ocean City's mayor and council members as part of a larger plan to eliminate the stagnation of city employee salaries.
The proposal, in simple terms, will raise the mayor's annual base salary to $40,000 and city council members to $20,000.
Since 2010, the mayor's annual base salary had been set at $20K with council members taking home $10K. Some members of council received financial stipends on top of that.
Over the last 13 years, Ocean City has been passed by other South Jersey communities in what their elected government officials make annually.
Even though these government positions are supposed to be part-time employment as "public servants," the optics do not look good seeing people who are supposed to represent a small community voting themselves a pay raise in a divisive political environment.
Ocean City's year-round population is 11,303 according to 2022 US Census Bureau Estimates, a small population that is now being asked to take on the burden of financing significant salary increases for part-time government representatives.
But Ocean City Council President Pete Madden told the Ocean City Sentinel that this pay raise is about keeping pace with other communities in the region:
This is something that has been talked about, I think, since the benefits went away from council, which was back in 2008 or 2009. There’s never a right time to do it, but we’ve fallen so far behind a lot of other municipalities and it seems to come up year after year but we never take action, so we finally did - I don’t think anybody is in it for the money, but I think the disparity between the municipalities always comes up as a topic.
While Ocean City is trying to "keep up with the Joneses," another part of the ordinance is that future salary increases for the mayor and council will be aligned with any salary increases for other city employees like police and fire departments.
The reality is that there are many people working full-time jobs who are making $40,000 or less per year, who now see the Ocean City Elected Officials voting themselves pay raises for part-time jobs. Seems like a tone-deaf move that could have been handled very differently.