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M’TOWN BUDGET: 10 COPS COULD LOSE JOBS

mtown-cruiserThe axe may fall if the PBA doesn’t make significant concessions, the township committee said. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Faced with the state’s new two-percent property tax cap and a drastic revenue shortfall, Middletown’s township committee has drafted what Mayor Tony Fiore calls a “doomsday scenario,” which includes laying off 10 police officers and effectively dismantling the town’s recreation department.

“It’s not news we like to share,” Fiore said of the plan, filed with the state Civil Service Commission on Friday, which anticipates the elimination of some 26 jobs.

Layoffs could take effect as soon as April, Fiore said, if the committee doesn’t get significant concessions from the library board and the handful of unions that represent township employees.

Because the committee is actively involved in negotiations with the various unions, Fiore would not say what specifically the township is looking for from the unions. But “obviously, we’re going to need concessions in the area of benefits to proceed,” he tells redbankgreen.

The town is also looking for $898,000 from the library’s $1.2 million surplus, a handful of other positions elsewhere and all 13 parks and rec employees, save director Gregg Silva.

The proposed shift in funds would “have no impact on the Library’s operations so that additional police layoffs can be averted,” Fiore said in a press release issued Sunday. “Nobody can be immune from cuts in this current economic climate, but we must first focus on essential core government services such as providing police protection and maintaining municipal roadways.”

Getting concessions from the library and unions is essential to avoid yet another wave of layoffs in Middletown — a move the committee doesn’t want to make, Fiore said.

“My whole goal is to save jobs,” he said. “This is a doomsday scenario. If we get no cooperation, then this is what we’ll be forced to do, because we’re running bare bones as it is.”

The township, crunched by a drop in state aid and a significant loss in revenue, trimmed 40 jobs from its $64.5 million budget last year through layoffs, resignations and retirements.

This year, Middletown faces much of the same financial hurdles, but the new property tax cap, plus a flood of winning tax appeals that cost the town about $7 million in revenue, will further hamstring officials, he said. The committee also anticipates flat funding in state aid, he said.

In light of these difficulties, Fiore said the committee has “looked everywhere” and “cut everything” in its own budget, and anticipates this year’s budget “to be significantly less than the $65 million (budget) of last year.” The press release says the town faces a $4.4 million shortfall this year.

Fiore said discussions with the unions and library board will continue through the month, and he expects decisions to be made by March. If the township can’t come to an agreement with the various entities by then, the committee’s layoff plan, which was filed with the state civil service commission Friday, will take effect on April 29.

A press release from Fiore can be downloaded here.

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