Council approved to appoint Mayor Carl Hokanson as an alternate representative to the Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties (JMUEC). Roselle Park is currently the only municipality of the 11-member board that appoints an alternate. All other local governments have one appointee who is always an elected official and gets an annual salary this year of $6,979 whether he or she shows up to a meeting or not. The chair of the JMEUC gets paid $13,982. JMEUC board member salaries are paid monthly.
Last month Roselle Park’s representative to the JMEUC, Third Ward Councilman William Fahoury, stated that he would be donating his entire salary to a local charity (link).
Resolution 61-18 officially appointed Mayor Hokanson as the alternate. The reason for the change is that the JMEUC refused to accept a resident, this reporter, as an alternate to the board, citing that a joint meeting can only appoint elected officials.
Before the vote, Councilman-At-Large Joseph DeIorio asked that the resolution be amended. He remarked,”I believe that this council strongly feels that citizens can participate as representatives of Roselle Park with the Joint Meeting of Essex & Union Counties, the sewerage authority. I think that I’d like to throw in a phrase that states ‘The borough reserves our right to revisit this issue in the future’ so that the sentiment that goes to the Joint Meeting is not that this is over. We’re just putting this on pause until a time we are possibly better prepared to address this in the future.”
Later in the meeting there was a workshop discussion to propose an ordinance that would codify that every year, whomever is appointed to the JMEUC from Roselle Park would donate their salary. The City of Summit in 2006 passed resoutions in which the salary of their representative was to be donated to a local Summit charity.
There was discussion if such a proposition would be legal since the JMEUC check is paid to an individual, not a municipality, and it was unclear whether a governing body could unilaterally appropriate an elected official’s salary as a representative for the borough.
There was also talk about how the close to $7,000 salary would impact the representative’s income tax since, even if donated, tax would be due on the added salary on the books from the JMEUC.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ken Blum offered a suggestion to the governing body, “Why don’t you go back to the Joint Sewer and ask them . . . to reduce the borough’s assessment by that amount. This way it does not affect your income taxes, you don’t get the income, and that just lowers our bill.
“I like that idea,” stated Mayor Hokanson, “In other words, you don’t get paid.”
Councilman DeIorio added, “But the borough would get the credit in the lesser assessment.”
“That would resolve everything,” said Mayor Hokanson.
Mr. Blum reiterated, “The borough gets the direct credit and it does not affect the commissioner’s income tax.”
Mayor Hokanson later stated that if paid for attending a JMEUC meeting in place of Councilman Fahoury at any time this year, he would also donate that salary to the borough.
The next JMEUC meeting is Thursday, February 15th, at 4 p.m. in the conference room of the Maplewood Municipal Building located at 574 Valley Street. Meetings are open to the public and have a public comment portion.