New Jersey’s potential increase in the minimum wage would have only a small impact on local governments, mostly for part-time seasonal workers.
The state Senate passed a measure Thursday to increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour beginning March 1, but it still needs approval from Gov. Chris Christie.
Local officials said they haven't looked closely at the impact of the bill, but many said it would affect only a small segment of positions — mostly the seasonal employees.
The state Office of Legislative Services reported 41,000 state, county and municipal government employees were paid the minimum wage and 58,000 were paid between $7.25 and $8.00 per hour in 2011.
The office could not provide a total amount of what an increase would cost government agencies due to uncertainty of how the agencies would make hires due to the bill.
The office notes other factors including minimum wage earners employed by private entities that contract to do work for governments. The private companies may ask for the government entities to pay the difference created by a minimum wage increase. The office also said employees who currently make $8.50 would have to be bumped up, creating another expense.
According to an Office of Legislative Services study, many would not be affected. Cape May County does not have any employees who makes minimum wage and Atlantic County only has a few who work at the Atlantic City Library.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the change would have a minimal effect since most employees are on salary.
But Levinson said he expects the change would mean there would be fewer overall government jobs throughout the state available for employees.
"I think the hiring of people would take a hit," he said. "(Governments) look at the bottom line."
Hamilton Township Administrator Mike Jacobs said the township does not have any employees on part-time who would be making minimum wage. Full-time employees "would not even be close" to earning minimum wage, he said, noting many are represented by unions.
Ocean County hires seasonal employees in its Parks and Recreation Department at less than $8.50 per hour, and the increase would cost the county at least $7,000 over a summer season.
The area where the increase may impact the most are shore towns that hire a lot of part-time seasonal positions such as beach tag checkers.
According to the Office of Legislative Services, Cape May City hires approximately 120 minimum wage employees for the summer season and the increase of the minimum wage would have cost the city approximately $73,000 in labor costs for the 2012 summer season.
Mayor Ed Mahaney said the city has not discussed what impact the bill would have on the budget.
A figure supplied by OLS of a cost of $52,000 for Ocean City could be accurate, Finance Director Frank Donato said but may be more when he factors in all the employees who make $8.50 an hour now and would also receive a bump in salary because of their seniority.
Donato said most of the 250 employees who make below $8.50 an hour are either seasonal beach tag checkers or staff for youth recreation programs.
"The beach taggers generate revenue," he said. "Cutting their hours would be like cutting your nose to spite your face."
Donato said a different possibility would be increasing fees, but since the city just recently did that another increase would be unpopular.
"We more or less would have to bite the bullet," he said.
But Donato said there has not been many discussions on this issue, noting the bill has been in discussion for a long time.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.
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