By Larry Barszewski

Manalapan is giving its town employees unexpected 5% raises, hoping to keep them happy with their jobs and to reduce the chances they will start looking for more lucrative employment elsewhere.
When Town Manager Linda Stumpf broached the subject with commissioners in January, concerned that the town’s pay scale wasn’t keeping up with those in neighboring communities, she suggested a 2% increase, with possibly another significant pay boost when the next annual budget is approved later this year.
Commissioners instead voted unanimously at their Feb. 22 meeting for 5% raises for all full- and part-time workers and to lift the starting salary for police officers in town from $51,200 to $55,000.
Commissioner John Deese said the increases are warranted, given today’s job market.
“I’ve been dealing with this in my own office,” said Deese, who is CEO of Guardians Credit Union. “We literally went into crisis mode,” awarding raises of up to 15% and retention bonuses of 10% in an effort to stem the tide of employees leaving for other jobs.
“I just want to make sure we’re ahead of that so we don’t end up losing good people,” Deese said.
Stumpf said she hadn’t heard grumbling from town employees thinking about leaving, but didn’t want to wait for that to happen.
Police Chief Carmen Mattox, who has been having difficulty filling his department’s openings, recently hired a new officer who will receive the increased starting pay. He has two other officer positions to fill.
“I think it’s going to help retain officers and I think it’s going to help attract officers,” Mattox said.
Katie Mendoza, representing the Police Benevolent Association, said other communities are adjusting their pay scales and starting salaries, some as part of ongoing contract negotiations. She supported the 5% raise, but said the starting salary for police officers could be even higher than the approved bump if the commission wants to make it more competitive.
Mayor Keith Waters said the raises and new starting salary are a good place to start. The town will continue to monitor salaries in preparation for its next budget.
Police will receive at least a 3% raise in October, which will be the last year of their current contract. Stumpf previously said the town’s typical 3% employee raises awarded in October may need to be as high as 5% this year.
The town employs about 40 full- and part-time workers, Stumpf said. The approved raises will cost about $110,900 annually, she said, while the boost in starting salary for police officers will cost about $15,200 annually.

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