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The $ix Figure Dollar Man

We can make her better than she was.

As has been reported here and elsewhere, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty has decided to replace long-time municipal Business Administrator Robbin Kirk.  She will stay on as Chief Financial Officer for Belmar and, by means of a shared services agreement, Spring Lake.  What has not been reported until now is what this change is going to cost us.

In a post few weeks ago I had a few questions about the mayor’s personnel shake-up.  At Wednesday night’s council meeting I was able to get a couple of them answered.

I actually went to the mike to participate in the public discussion regarding the appointment of a new full-time recreation director.  I followed resident, and Belmar Republican Club Chairman, Mike Seebeck who suggested that we hold off on hiring a director and try to run the department on a volunteer basis as some other towns in the area do.  Councilman Magovern was skeptical, saying that in the past volunteers tended to lose interest and stop showing up after a while.  To this I would say that if they can’t even get enough interest in a program to get parents to run it, why should the government turn around and force it on us?

I don’t see running and funding recreational programs as a legitimate function of government.  It is fundamentally wrong for the government to force people who don’t have children to pay to entertain other people’s children.  We’re not talking about health care or education here.  We’re talking about entertainment.  And it’s not just the people who don’t have children that are being asked, or rather, told to pay.  What about the people who have kids that don’t choose to participate in the officially chosen recreational activities, but instead pursue other interests?  If Belmar is going to pay for soccer or basketball shouldn’t they also pay for dancing lessons or karate lessons? 

I digress. Let me now return to the subject of this article.

The question I asked Wednesday night is why would the town’s recreation director be paid $45,000/year when the borough administrator, who actually runs the town, is paid only $30,000/year?  Something didn’t seem right here and it turns out it wasn’t right.  The fact is that Ms. Kirk was doing the administrative work for only $30,000 because she was already being paid $81,000 for her CFO job.  Councilman Wright informed me that the incoming business administrator’s pay would be in 6 figures.   

I have to admit I was somewhat taken aback at that revelation.  I thought the BA job was worth more than thirty thousand, but I had never imagined it was worth more than a hundred thousand!

Although he didn’t repeat it at the meeting Wednesday, I know the mayor justifies this move by saying that with the increase in “infrastructure” work going on, the town needs a full-time administrator to coordinate all of it.  But if the amount of administrative work was too much for Ms. Kirk, and there has been no indication, at least known publicly, that it was, couldn’t we just hire her another assistant or shift some of her work to someone else?  Maybe our new rec director could pitch in and help her.

Even if we were to take the mayor at his word (and not everybody does, of course), that this move was necessitated by the large amount of work going on in town, and there are no other factors that we are not being told about, I am still not happy about this.  After spending millions of dollars on improvements, we will now have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay someone to oversee all the increased spending.  And although Mayor Doherty refers to it as infrastucture, it is really mostly just beautification projects.  Infrastucture is new roads, bridges, sewer lines and the like.  Most of the work that we are borrowing for, and asking telling the SID members (hostages might be a more appropiate term) is to pay for is for fancy sidewalks, streetlights and marina development in the hope that this will attract more businesses, shoppers and boat owners to Belmar.  Needless to say, I remain highly skeptical about all of this.  Commerce is the opposite of force.  Force and commerce don’t co-exist easily.

While we were on the subject of Ms. Kirk’s compensation, I asked why Spring Lake was only paying $25,000 of her $81,000 CFO salary when I presume she’s doing basically equal amounts of work for both Belmar and Spring Lake.  I was told by the mayor that the $25,000 was found money since we would have to pay Ms. Kirk the $81,000 with or without Spring Lake chipping in.  This just makes no sense to me.  If we are sharing her work equally, shouldn’t we share the cost equally?  I suspect the reason is distortions caused by New Jersey civil-service laws that dictate compensation requirements for different municipal functions.  So the cost of our CFO work and of our BA work are not based on how much work is actually involved for each position.  That’s government for you.

Government is like Strawberry Fields.  Nothing is real.  



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