SO LONG, LONGEVITY PAY

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank employees won’t be getting any more financial pats on the back for staying on the job under a law change now pending before the borough council.

The governing body last week introduced an ordinance that would freeze a $500 bonus for every five years longevity that non-vested and non-union employees rack up. Future hires and current staffers who haven’t yet hit the five-year vesting mark won’t get the longevity bonuses at all, Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

Employees already receiving the pay will still get it, but it will be capped at its current amount, Menna says. For example, a 10-year employee would receive $1,000, but at their 15-year mark, will not get $1,500. Withholding the longevity pay already promised to those employees would be a violation of federal law, Menna added.

“It has been something which has been part of local government since anyone can remember,” Menna said. “Obviously those who are affected are not happy, but residents feel it’s time to look at everything, and we are.”

The idea, obviously, is to save money at a time when fees and other revenue sources have been shrinking while overall costs rise. Although chief financial officer Frank Mason didn’t have the total number of employees directly affected by the move, he said two employees would have been eligible to receive their first bonuses this year. If the ordinance is passed, those employees won’t get their extra $500. The Asbury Park Press reported that 16 employees, including top officials, would be affected by the freeze.

“You can’t gauge it on what you’re saving today. It’s what you’re saving for the future,” Menna said. “This is the way we should look to go.”

Employees in unions should watch out, too. Menna said the borough will look to implement the same measures in upcoming bargaining with the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and Communications Workers Union, the two unions Red Bank works with. He was unsure of how many employees are in the unions.

“It would be something we would seek to remove because of the difficult financial circumstance,” Menna said. “It seems difficult, but these are trying times.”

The council, despite reducing its debt by $1 million last year, seems to have knives out and ready for many aspects of the borough budget. It has asked department heads to cut their respective budgets by 15 percent and, depending on how much state aid the borough receives, has drawn up a ‘doomsday’ budget, which would include layoffs.

Here’s the proposed ordinance amendment: 2010-5ordinance