By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Now that the borough’s budget is in effect, Red Bank employees will, beginning Friday, find out the full meaning of the f-word.
That is to say, they’re getting their workweeks trimmed three times this summer, part of a borough-wide furlough program dictated by the $19.2 million budget, which was approved at a special meeting on Friday.
The temporary layoffs get started this Friday, and all borough offices, except for the police department, will be closed.
The furlough applies to the town’s 178-member workforce, including the Communications Workers of America, which has been at loggerheads with borough leadership for months on an expired contract that continues to be negotiated. But one point of discussions the furloughs has hit a stalemate, and Mayor Pasquale Menna tells redbankgreen that the approved budget calls for a blanket three-day furlough schedule.
“We will be imposing furloughs on them,” he said.”We have not been able to have a meeting of the minds. (Borough offices) are going to be closed. They’re not getting paid.”
Menna said he could not discuss the particulars of the discussions with the union, but its representative, Kevin Tauro, has been vocal at public meetings that his blue-collar employees are among the lowest paid in the borough and the state and deserve a raise, not pay cuts. He could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.
Police officers, whose union voluntarily accepted the furlough days last month, will take their unpaid days off in staggered schedules, “so that the police department doesn’t close one second,” Menna said.
Because they are public safety and emergency personnel, their union, the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, had to agree to the furloughs, whereas state law allows a municipality to impose furloughs on other workers, like the CWA, according to Menna.
Menna said the only other option would have been to lay employees off, a move that, at this point of the year, doesn’t even save much money.
“This is the only other logical choice,” Menna said.
Furloughing employees helps make up for a $302,000 budget shortfall the borough faced as it was struggling with revenue losses and increases in other costs, officials have said. On Friday, the council passed the annual spending plan, which will still call for a hike in tax bills.
Taxes will go up 2.3 cents for every $100 of assessed property value, meaning that the average home, assessed at $405,522, will see a $93 increase for the year.
The furloughs will occur one Friday a month throughout the summer. The other dates to expect borough offices to be closed are July 23 and Aug. 27.