[Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:50p to include a comment from the PBA and a copy of the PBA press release, below]
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
On a night that the borough’s budget was to be adopted, Red Bank officials instead made other financial news by announcing that free Saturday parking will become a thing of the past and police will take furlough days in order to fill a wide budget gap.
And despite the borough’s other union refusing to accept furlough days, the council will impose them anyway in order to avoid laying workers off, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
In all, the borough will see a savings of $33,000 a day by furloughing its 178 or so employees for three days each, said Councilman Michael DuPont.
With borough-wide furloughs, bringing back Saturday parking fees and other cost-saving measures, Menna said the borough will make up the $302,000 shortfall it faced when the $19.2 million budget was introduced last month.
The Policemen’s Benevolent Association, which represents the 40-some member police force, agreed after an hour-long executive session Monday night to take three furlough days for each employee through the rest of the year a major step in plugging a hole in the budget, Menna said, considering that, by law, the borough can’t impose furloughs on employees covered by collective bargaining contracts.
“We’re very grateful that the PBA has been able to recognize the seriousness of the fiscal emergency in the state,” he said.
PBA Local 39 President Bob Campanella said in a statement issued Tuesday that the borough’s demand regarding furloughs “left the Red Bank PBA with no choice but to accept
furlough days for all members in order to avoid layoffs. Police officer layoffs would be a safety issue to our union members and residents alike.”
But in public comments, Kevin Tauro, who represents the borough’s other union, the Communications Workers of America, argued that CWA members are among the lowest paid in the county and, after getting shortchanged on their last contract, won’t sacrifice more in order to fill the borough’s budget gap.
“These workers have had enough. They’ve done their fair share,” Tauro said.
But the same law that protects the PBA from furloughs doesn’t apply to the CWA, Menna said, and the borough will impose unpaid days off.
He appreciates Tauro’s comments, but, he said this morning, the furloughs “will happen.”
Originally, the borough proposed that both unions accept 10-day furloughs in order to cover a projected $302,000 budget shortfall. However, the unions and other suggesters came up with other cost-saving measures, said borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, in order to reduce the number of unpaid days off.
The council had been scheduled to adopt Red Bank’s budget on Monday night, but because of what Mayor Pasquale Menna called a “clerical erratum” with a local newspaper, it was delayed until next week.
Along with the various cuts and mandatory furloughs, the borough will replenish its coffers via parking meters. Beginning June 5, downtown visitors will have to resume paying for Saturday parking.
Officials suspended Saturday parking fees in early 2009 to promote a shopping in a struggling economy. But the experiment proved detrimental to the borough ledger, with Red Bank losing about $10,000 a month, Sickels said.
To make up for the loss and to drive employees off the streets and into parking lots, officials have said the borough jacked the meter and permit fees downtown last month.
But there’s too much to make up for, Menna said. In March, Red Bank was cut more than $500,000 in state aid; insurance and pension costs have gone up; and the borough surplus was reduced by about $900,000.
“We can no longer afford to give free parking on Saturdays,” Sickels said.
About $60,000 is expected to come in this year by reinstituting the Saturday parking fee, he said. There’s no talk of rescinding the meter fees for 2011, either.
“We need to have it for next year,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult year.”
Menna spoke solemnly on Monday night about the decisions the council made, but defended them as necessary to save employees their jobs.
“At the end of the day, we have to maintain borough services,” he said. “We can’t cut any other employees. We are at a skeleton crew.”
Red Bank’s budget is slated for adoption next Tuesday, June 1, at 6:30p.
Here’s the full statement from Campanella: press-release-pba1