WEST CAPE MAY _ Voters here on Tuesday rejected ballot questions to increase the size of the governing body and to reduce the pay elected officials make.
The vote to increase the size of Borough Commission from three to five members was defeated 311-174. This is an unofficial tally that does not include absentee ballots, but there are not enough to change the outcome.
A second ballot question was somewhat dependent on the first. It would have limited the salary of commissioners to $6,000 per year if there were three commissioners or to $5,000 with five commissioners.
The pay range now is $8,000 to $18,000 per year with Deputy Mayor Peter Burke and Commissioner Ramsey Geyer making $11,000 and Mayor Pam Kaithern making more than $16,000. Kaithern and Burke opposed the moves.
Voters defeated the question on whether to reduce the pay by 276-196.
“I think it’s a reflection that people understood the hard work and dedication that Deputy Mayor Burke and I put into our community. It reaffirms that people understood how hard we work for the town,” said Kaithern.
John Rowley, a spokesman for the group that petitioned for the ballot questions, said it was an uphill battle.
“It is difficult to change the status quo and our incumbent opposition has a seasoned and well oiled machine,” said Rowley.
Rowley said salaries “are out of line with other communities” and he hopes it becomes an issue in the 2013 election, in which all three commission seats are up for grabs.
The next question here is whether the scheduled May election for all three seats will take place or the commission will decide to move the election to November 2013. Towns with nonpartisan May elections are now allowed to move them to November and they would remain nonpartisan. Cape May did it this year for the first time and borough officials here said they are watching how that worked out on Tuesday night.
Such a move would save money but could also increase voter turnout, which is often higher in November. Kaithern said the issue is on the agenda for discussion at tonight’s regularly scheduled commission meeting beginning at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall.
“We had really good turnout today, probably 80 percent, but even with May elections we have good turnout,” Kaithern said.