Budget ax landing on public employee
Monday, January 12, 2009
BY MERRY FIRSCHEIN AND DEENA YELLIN
Many North Jersey municipalities are considering drastic cost-cutting measures as they face skyrocketing expenses amid shrinking revenues and a faltering economy.
Among the areas to be targeted, according to local officials, are municipal personnel, capital improvement projects and non-essential services. As a result, residents may find some local roads unpaved, higher fees at borough hall and fewer municipal employees.
“These are not popular decisions,” Paramus Borough Administrator Anthony Iacono said. “But we all have to bear down and make them.”
Fort Lee will continue a hiring freeze instituted last year, “except those new hires needed to operate government in an efficient manner,” Mayor Mark Sokolich said. The borough has not created any new positions, and some municipal positions were eliminated, such as the attorney for economic development.
Hillsdale staff will be reviewed for possible layoffs and a recently retired DPW foreman will not be replaced, said Borough Administrator Harold Karns, who is retiring from his position. A replacement for Karns has not yet been named.
Jobs currently performed by full-time employees, such as janitorial services and garbage services, may be outsourced, which would yield a significant savings, Karns said.
In Paramus Borough Hall, offices may empty out.
“As people leave positions through retirement or resignations, prior to [those positions] being filled, we are making efforts to reevaluate the position,” said Iacono. “Some will clearly and definitely not be replaced.”
And although layoffs of municipal employees have not yet been discussed in Norwood, the borough will replace a full-time Board of Heath secretary with a part-time employee.
“There’s a lot of belt-tightening,” Westwood Mayor Joe Birkner said. “Our pencils will be very sharp as we go through our budgets line by line to see where we can make cuts.” Westwood has opted not to replace some employees who left or retired, asking other employees to assume their duties.
Westwood also is saving money by renegotiating contracts at lower rates and canceling a contract with a pesticide company, said Borough Administrator Robert Hoffmann.
In some towns, the financial woes are extending into employee pockets and wallets.
Fort Lee’s mayor, council members, borough planner, engineer, auditor, accountants and other professionals will take a 5 percent pay cut this year, Sokolich said.
Garfield’s professionals will not receive any raises this year, the same as in 2008, said City Manager Thomas Duch. The mayor and council members have not received an increase in at least five years, Duch said.
In Paramus, the mayor and council will make contributions to their health benefits, Iacono said. Teamsters union members will now have a health insurance co-payment, he said.
Hillsdale has finalized contracts with the police, Teamsters and office associations requiring contributions from employees towards health insurance for the first time: Police will contribute $780 per year, Teamsters $520, and office staff $260 annually.
“We will be looking for contributions to medical benefits and we will be looking to a lower percentage in their yearly salary increase than the previous year’s 3 percent,” Borough Administrator Lorraine McMackin said.
Some communities, such as Paramus and Midland Park, are considering price hikes on various local fees such as animal licenses and permits.
Midland Park is looking at existing fees “with the sense of not to jump it up, but to examine what we charge and change it to what is fair for the market for the service,” Borough Administrator Michelle Dugan said.
Hillsdale officials will raise construction fees and other municipal charges are being reviewed for possible increases, Karns said. In Garfield, officials will look at increasing revenue through raising penalties on what Duch termed “quality of life” ordinances.
Other towns are delaying capital improvement projects until their financial outlook appears brighter.
Hillsdale will not embark on any projects, except for small essential jobs, such as repaving a damaged street and replacing leaking roofs.
Several capital improvement projects in Northvale have been delayed and some road resurfacing projects are likely to be put off as well.