On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division.
For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Case, Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling and Ackerson. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.
These appeals were taken from the Superior Court, Law Division, Passaic County, to the Appellate Division and were certified here on our own motion. They were filed and briefed separately but were consolidated for argument and will be decided together since identical issues are involved.
The plaintiff Lee is, and has been for more than 27 years, the health officer of the City of Paterson. The other plaintiffs are sanitary inspectors employed by the Paterson Board of Health and all have occupied their positions for more than ten years.
The health officer was originally appointed at a salary of $5,000 in accordance with an established salary range of $5,000 to $7,500. He received yearly increases of $500 until, after five years, he received the maximum salary of $7,500. In 1946, a salary range of $7,500 to $10,000 was established for the position of health officer.
The other plaintiffs were originally appointed at a time when the salary range for sanitary inspectors was $1,620 to $2,160 per year. In 1946, the salary range for this position was increased to $1,800 to $2,400.
R.S. 26:3-25.1 became effective on July 1, 1947, and provided:
"Every health officer and every sanitary inspector, plumbing inspector, food and drug inspector, milk inspector and meat inspector holding a license as such issued in the name of the State Department of Health, who is employed by any municipality or group of municipalities governed by the provisions of subtitle three of Title 11 of the Revised Statutes, shall receive his or her maximum salary in their respective salary ranges, within five years from the date of his or her appointment as such health officer or inspector."
The City of Paterson is a second-class city governed by the provisions of the subtitle referred to. At the time the statute became effective, the salaries of all the plaintiffs were the maximum provided by the salary ranges then in effect for the positions they occupied.
The board of health, on May 12, 1948, adopted a resolution approving a salary range for sanitary inspectors of $2,200 to $3,000 per year and for the health officer, $7,500 to $12,500. These new ranges were submitted to and approved by the State Civil Service Commission. At a subsequent meeting of the board on August 3, 1948, another resolution was adopted making the new salary ranges effective October 1st of that year and providing equal annual increments to bring all the plaintiffs' salaries up to the new maximums by the end of five years.
The plaintiffs brought these actions seeking to have R.S. 26:3-25.1 construed to require that their salaries be increased to the new maximums on the effective date of the resolution establishing the new salary ranges and for arrearages computed on the difference between the pay actually received and the newly established maximums. In each case, motion for summary judgment for the plaintiffs was granted.
The defendants contend the salary ranges established in the resolution of May 12, 1948, were invalid because they were established by resolution rather than by ordinance. It is urged, moreover, that the 1947 statute entitles the plaintiffs only to the maximum salary in effect at the time they were appointed to their several positions or, at the most, ...