EXCLUSIVE: A close to $2,000,000 preliminary budget shortfall could result in the laying off police officers, DPW workers and other union employees within the Township, TLS has exclusively learned. Sources tell TLS, that during a meeting yesterday between Township officials and union heads, the Township has formally asked that the six unions in town accept a wage freeze, which could result in a strong possibility that the Township could avoid layoffs.
Although a contract negotiated last year approved a pay raise across the board – and that contract cannot be broken – the Township is not prohibited from laying off employees, should they be able to prove a need to do so, sources say.
According to sources, the contractual obligations for the unions for the year of 2012, is approximately $1,000,000. Asking the unions to accept the wage freeze – and remain with 2011’s wages – would offset the projected shortfall by approximately half that amount.
If the wage freeze is not accepted, the Township could send RICE notices to the employees. The RICE notice informs the employee that the Township intends to discuss them at a future date.
The unions with the largest chunks of the wages, are the PBA, SOA and the DPW.
“I’m not happy about it”, DPW Union Head Mike Cava tells TLS. “But I’m hoping they will be open to negotiations and we can explore other options”, Cava says.
In a last minute deal during negotiations with the unions last year, the unions accepted a revamped medical care and benefits package.
But the Township maintains that fiscal responsibility requires them to look into all options.
“In these times of fiscal hardship we must look at every option to produce an affordable budget”, Township Manager Mike Muscillo tells TLS. “The last thing we want to do is lay off any employees and we are proud to be from the few towns that in the past two years have maintained a stable budget without any layoffs”, Muscillo says.
In regard to the notices Muscillo says, “The only part of this process that requires advanced notice is any action taken with civil service employees”. “If any action is taken, the law requires the town to give advanced notice”.
But the Township says all options are on the table.
“We are open to all options and we need to explore all options to maintain an affordable budget for the residents and taxpayers”, Muscillo says.
The Township expects to hear back from the union heads in the coming weeks. TLS.