hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As the budget axe looms over 26 jobs in Middletown, the township has scheduled two public meetings in anticipation of coming to agreement with unions in contract negotiations.

That doesn’t mean the meetings will be held, however.

The meetings, scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, are not so much a sign that contract resolutions are imminent as a routine legalities in case agreements are, in fact, reached and ready to be voted upon.

“If the unions don’t come back with an agreement we’re looking for, then the meetings will be canceled,” Mayor Tony Fiore told redbankgreen.

The township, which filed a layoff plan for 26 positions that go into effect Friday, continues to try to hammer out contract agreements with the unions. Faced with a budget crunch and having to comply with the the state-imposed two-percent property tax cap, the township is looking for significant concessions in the form of health insurance and benefits to avoid delivering pink slips to some two dozen employees.

Fiore said if word comes back from township Administrator Tony Mercantante that an impasse may be near an end, then the meetings will serve as the due legal steps to memorialize the deals.

As of Wednesday, that did not appear imminent.

“I’ve not gotten any feedback from the township administrator that we have a deal yet,” Fiore said. “But they’re working diligently to see if we can come to an agreement.”

At stake are 10 positions within the police department, various other positions and 13 employees of the parks and recreation department — jobs that, if lost, will effectively shred the department to nothing. And there’s more to come, Fiore said, if concessions with the unions aren’t made.

“If we can’t do it, we have to figure out what we’re going to keep and what we’re not for budget savings,” he said.