Layoffs loom, parking meter increase could return

Layoffs loom, parking meter increase could return

Workforce reduction notices will go out October, mayor says

09/01/2008  Hoboken Reporter

DECISIONS, DECISIONS – Mayor David Roberts is trying to avoid massive layoffs by creating as many new revenue ideas as possible. Last week he criticized the City Council for tabling many of the proposals.  
Mayor David Roberts is taking the necessary steps to ready the city for layoffs, demotions, or other reductions in force, he said last week.

The City Council may have to make serious decisions at their meeting this Wednesday.

The city has an $11.7 million deficit to make up, due to a financial hole that widened in last year's budget.

Before any city workers lose their jobs, Roberts says he will ask the City Council to consider the few revenue-increasing options he has proposed.

Some city-proposed revenue ideas were put on hold by the City Council at their last meeting to further examine their feasibility or necessity.

Among them are controversial matters designed to increase revenue, including forcing local businesses to pay recycling fees - a measure the city attorney has said is very hard to legally implement.

Since it is uncertain whether the city will save money in other ways, the layoff plan is already in motion, according to Roberts.

Roberts met with the city's unions last week to discuss other ways to save money, as well as the effects of layoffs.

He said layoff notices will likely be sent to municipal employees in October.

City Attorney Joseph Pojanowski, who was sitting in last week for Steve Kleinman while he was on vacation, said that once notices are sent out, the city has 45 days to act, by law.

Measures for layoffs

In order to begin the process of laying off employees, Roberts said the first step was to clear the planned reduction with the state. He also had to identify "provisional employees," or non-civil service workers who only require a two-week notice of severance.

He said that 60 employees were identified, and if they are released, the city could see a savings of $2 million.

Roberts sat down with the city's unions last week to explain the potential for cuts and to brainstorm any other cost-saving ideas.


"Let's start at the top."

- Beth Mason

The city sent out preliminary layoff notices in late July to make workers aware of the impending situation.

The layoffs, combined with demotions and retirements, could cut $5 million from a budget that rose above $100 million dollars last year.

Still pushing more meters

Roberts claims his revenue-increasing measures will increase the city coffers by $7 million, but that the council is not taking them seriously.

"I am urging the City Council to pass our revenue sources," he said last week.

By doing so, he said the city could lessen the impact of layoffs, but not totally eliminate them.

One of Robert's proposals was to parking meters up one side of Washington Street, and add more in other areas but the council voted it down last month.

Another moneymaking idea of the administration is to sell the property housing the police station and relocate the department to a more modern facility.

The move would create more taxable properties on the site, but most likely would not result in any revenue increase in this fiscal year.

Mason: Start at the top

Some City Council members have been claiming for a while that the city workforce is overloaded.

Others feel Roberts is just making threats about layoffs, only to balk when the time comes.

Beth Mason, 2nd Ward Councilwoman, said, "He talks about it, but then he doesn't do it."

She said that the City Council needs to find $10 million, either in revenue or cost-cutting, in order to balance the budget this year.

Layoffs, she said, may not be the best way, given that the savings won't be realized until four months or so into the year.

"I'm not sure layoffs are going to solve the problem," Mason said.

She said the layoff system targets low-level employees who are not earning extraordinary wages, or "$8,000 crossing guard-types."

Mason said the top-level, high-paid employees are what the administration should be looking at, including police and fire chiefs, city directors, the City Council, and the mayor.

"Let's start at the top," she said.

She also said that Roberts' revenue ideas were relatively minor compared to the major deficit the city faces.

"You're not going to tell me that we're going to raise enough money by ticketing our cars," Mason said.

Councilman-At-Large Peter Cammarano said from the Democratic National Convention in Denver that he doesn't want to see layoffs or services cut, but that there is going to have to be some sort of cuts.

He recommended retirement incentive packages, but cautioned against cutting some departments.

"Public safety should be a priority," Cammarano said.

According to city officials, the first thing the state did when it began the fiscal intervention was to have auditors look at the workforce efficiency of the police and fire departments.

The report has not yet been completed, according to city sources.

Other measures

Roberts said there are other factors that could help the city's fiscal woes.

He said there are still some city employees that receive double coverage on benefits because of spouses who have also work with the city.

Roberts said eliminating these extra benefits, which cost the city $22,000 per person, could save $500,000 per year.

Also, benefit packages could be renegotiated and, according to Roberts, could provide 99 percent of the same coverage while saving the city $3 million.

Roberts said he is open to other ideas, but that the government has to have an "entrepreneurial attitude" in order to see any real change.

Comments (0)

New comments are currently disabled.

Email to Friend

Fill in the form below to send this article to a friend:

Email to Friend
* Your Name:
* Your Email:
* Friend's Name:
* Friend's Email:
* Security Image:
Security Image Generate new
Copy the numbers and letters from the security image
* Message: