Because it is a complex agreement that has several different incentives, the pay raise for each individual officer will be slightly different, but most will be right around 5 to 5.5 percent per year of the contract, Drasheff said.
The collective bargaining contract for the rank and file firefighters is still open and an agreement should be reached soon, said city officials.
According to Drasheff and Union President Andrew Markey, who is also a battalion chief in the Hoboken Fire Department, the contract is retroactive and covers 2003 and 2004.
Drasheff added that the contract will create approximately $287,000 in extra salary expenses the first year. He said that he anticipates that there will be a $900,000 surplus in the fire department line item with the next budget, which more than covers the increase in spending.
"This is a fair contract that recognizes their performance and service to the community," said Drasheff Wednesday.
Markey added that he agreed the contract was completely justifiable given the commitment that the Hoboken Fire Department has made to the city. He said that in the past two years, the Fire Department has established a Hazardous Waste team and has undertaken confined-space training. He added that 21 superiors who were promoted in the past 12 months have agreed to take their promotion in title only for the first year, foregoing the pay increase that goes with the promotion for the first year.
Finally, he said the heightened need for effective public safety since 9/11 should also be taken into account. "The reality of the situation is that there is a possibility that something else very well could happen," said Markey. "The Hoboken Fire Department provides essential services, and it's important that they are recognized and compensated for their professionalism."
Contesting the numbers
The final vote on the contract was not without controversy, as several of the members on the nine-person board questioned the validity of the numbers that were being presented by the administration.
The contract passed, but support was mixed. The final vote was 5-2-2, with councilpersons Michael Russo and Theresa Castellano voting against it. Carol Marsh and Tony Soares abstained. The five council members who generally support Mayor David Roberts' administration voted for the contract.
"I have a long list of concerns with this contract," said Russo. He produced a spreadsheet that he created, which he alleged showed that the contract provides for much more than the 5 percent raise advertised by Drasheff.
According to his spreadsheet, Russo said that the contract is closer to an average of a 14 percent increase for the first year.
"It is my opinion that this is poor management of the city's money," said Russo. "Is this the best we can do? I don't think so."
Drasheff said Thursday that Russo's numbers were miscalculations and that he was grossly "exaggerating" the added cost of the contract. He added that the officers didn't even pursue a $3,000-per-officer tuition reimbursement, which the police superiors got in their contract just a couple of months ago.
"If this went to arbitration, it is more than likely that we would do much worse," said Drasheff. "This is dollar for dollar less than their counterparts on the Police Department have gotten."
Russo responded that he was not comfortable with the numbers that were being presented, especially after Drasheff had understated how much the police contract was going to cost only six months earlier. At first, Drasheff had said the police contract would cost $200,000 in extra spending, but in the end it was closer to one million.
"They are yet to show me convincingly how much this is going to cost," said Russo. "It looks like to me that they are giving away the shop."
Russo also said that he objected to putting several incentives of up to $4,400 into the base pay. The officers are entitled to these incentives, but in contracts past, they were outside the base salary. This is an important distinction because each officer receives a present of their base pay as longevity each year. The bigger the base, the more they receive in longevity.
Russo he said that adding the incentives into the base will make the base salary escalate too quickly and the amount over longevity payment will rapidly get "out-of-whack."
Drasheff said that negotiations are give-and-take. He said it was fair to include incentives in the base, because the union took the tuition reimbursement off the table.
Drasheff goes over it
Thursday, Drasheff went through each item to show how much the contract would cost for a battalion chief. According to his calculation, the figure came out to 5.3 percent for each of the next two years, for a total of 10.6 percent over the lifetime of the two-year contract. He added that he is comfortable sticking by the numbers that he presented to the City Council Wednesday night.
Councilman Richard Del Boccio, who supported the contract and who chairs the Revenue and Finance Subcommittee, said he supports and agrees with Drasheff's numbers.
"This is a fair deal for the dedicated people who protect our city every day," said Del Boccio.
Soares said the discrepancy in the numbers alone should have been reason enough to table the contract for a vote on a different day.
"I really don't trust that the business administrator's numbers are accurate," said Soares, who abstained from voting. "We really should take some extra time to look at this."
Other council news: Tow yard moved, director resigns
Seemingly everyone who owns a car in Hoboken has had their car or a friends' car towed at least once, and that meant they had to go to Pino's Tow Yard on Jackson Street.
In June of 2002, the contract that Pino's had with Hoboken Parking Authority expired. For years, Pino's has had an exclusive contract to tow cars in Hoboken.
From June 2002 to Wednesday night, Pino's and city were working together on a month-to-month basis.
But over the past few months, the towing contract went out to a public bid and was won by Mile Square Towing. The new facility will be located at 1520 Jefferson St. According to City Business Administrator Robert Drasheff, there was no disruption in service and the cars at Pino's are being moved to the new location Thursday morning.
According to Robert Drasheff, the winning bid operator will lower the towing fee per car from $75 to $54.
Pino's property is slated to include a new development in the future.
Director of Environmental Services Cassandra Wilday has resigned her position and will assume a full-time job as a parks consultant. Wilday is one of four department directors under Mayor David Roberts.
In her new position, Wilday will help oversee the design of Pier C Park and help create an open space acquisition plan.
Replacing Wilday will be Joseph Peluso, a long-time Environmental Services employee who has worked his way through the ranks.
"Joe is a career public servant who has risen through rank and file," said Mayor David Roberts. "He has earned our trust and support."
The director of environmental services oversees garbage collection and the maintenance of the city's streets and parks. - Tom Jennemann