M’TOWN MEETINGS SET TO KEEP JOBS, MAYBE

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.

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FIORE: MIDDLETOWN BUDGET WILL MEET CAP

middletown-town-hallBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Now that the Middletown township committee’s gotten the cooperation it asked from the library board, in the way of a half-million dollar transfer to the budget, the pressure now rests on negotiations with six unions to come to an agreement that officials hope will save jobs.

In any case, the committee, unlike last year, will have its budget ready in a timely manner.

Also unlike last year, it won’t be going to Trenton for approval to exceed the tax cap, Mayor Tony Fiore said Monday.

“The budget will comply with the two-percent property tax cap,” he said, offering April 4 as the official date for the budget’s introduction.

Among the last hurdles to be cleared, he said, are concessions from unions.

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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.

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SCHOOL BOARD SAYS ‘NO’ TO PAY INCREASES

holcombe-hurdRed Bank Middle School music teacher Holcombe Hurd addressed the school board Tuesday in response to its decision not to approve union pay raises for 132 teachers. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After a year of contract negotiations, the Red Bank Board of Education, citing an “unprecedented” reduction in state aid and a difficult budget season, voted 6 -2 against a pay increase for the district’s unionized employees Tuesday night.

Board members described the vote as one of many difficult decisions in an economic climate in which Gov. Chris Christie has slashed state aid and forced school districts to use budget surpluses to make up for a loss in revenue.

“All of this takes place in the context of the worst economic period in the United States since the Great Depression,” board member Ben Forest told an audience of about 125 residents and teachers.

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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.”

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CONTRACT UPS WAGES, IMPOSES FURLOUGHS

council-sessionCouncil members Michael DuPont, Ed Zipprich and Juanita Lewis heard details of the contract in a closed-door session Monday night before approving it in open session.

Red Bank officials last night approved a collective bargaining agreement that will boost the hourly pay of blue-collar and clerical workers  by three percent.

Because the raises will be paid only for the second half of this year, Mayor Pasquale Menna said the bump was effectively 1.5 percent for the 70 or so affected workers.

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