In the state of New Jersey, elected county officials are known as freeholders. The term dates to Colonial times when the colony stipulated that only men with land, called freehold, could serve in elected office. Today, that stipulation has been removed, but the terminology describes the people who manage the Garden State’s 21 counties. The New Jersey salary for a freeholder varies across the state.
A New Jersey freeholder earned an average of $44,025 a year in 2009, according to the "Newark Star-Ledger." With related expenses included, the average cost per freeholder was $60,657. All freeholders in New Jersey act as the legislative branch for county government. Some counties, however, require freeholders to take on other responsibilities, including handling executive functions.
Freeholders serving Ocean County earned the top salary in the state and were paid an average of $97,024; with expenses that amount was $98,164. Mercer County paid an average of $95,474, Hudson County paid $80,403, Essex County paid $79,893 and Gloucester County paid $75,714, offering the highest freeholder salaries in New Jersey. Morris County paid $49,159 but had the highest cost in the state per freeholder at $132,450. The Star-Ledger notes that freeholder expenses may include one time purchases as well as other costs associated with the position.
Burlington County with five freeholders pays an average of just $10,653 per year, for the lowest salary in the state. In Somerset County, freeholders earned an average of $17,772 per year and those working in Middlesex County earned $21,243. Freeholders in Camden and Sussex counties earned $23,143 and $24,081, respectively.
Statewide, the total salaries expended in 2009 for freeholders in all 21 counties was $6,031,399. Expenses totaled $2,278,544 for a total of $8,309,943. This total amount represented an average decrease statewide of 7.35 percent over 2008.
The number of freeholders serving in any one county ranges from three in Warren County to nine in Atlantic, Essex, Hudson and Union counties, the maximum allowed by state law. Bergen County, the most populated county in the state with nearly 900,000 residents, has seven freeholders. In some counties, freeholders are elected at-large, while in other counties they are elected within county districts. Atlantic and Essex counties have a mixture of at-large and district-elected freeholders.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images