BY TOM SHORTELL – The Independent
Growing financial woes and increasing debt will force the township to institute layoffs next year, Committeeman Sean Byrnes said at the Middletown Township Committee workshop Dec. 7.
Byrnes predicted the township would cut people from the municipal payroll because of a myriad of financial problems. In 2010, the township faces shrinking revenue and mounting debt, he said. Additional restraints could emerge if New Jersey’s financial problems bring less state aid or if unions win their lawsuit to end government furloughs, he said.
“There’s going to be layoffs,” Byrnes said.
The township will also face contract negotiations with four labor unions next year, including the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association, said Anthony Mercantante, township administrator.
“[Next] year is going to be ugly — UG L-Y, ugly,” Byrnes said.
The township has begun making a layoff plan should the Township Committee ultimately decide it’s the best way to manage the budget, Mercantante said. However, he said the move is a precaution commonly taken by municipalities before budget discussions begin.
“You just need to be prepared, not knowing how much the Township Committee is going to raise taxes, if at all,” he said.
The state’s Civil Service Commission would have to approve any layoffs, Mercantante said. The process typically takes months, he added.
“The existence of a plan does not necessarily mean layoffs are going to happen,” he said.
The committee’s two Democrats, Byrnes and Committeeman Patrick Short, raised the issue of layoffs in a debate over how to pay $1.3 million in health insurance bills and workers’ compensation. The township’s insurance manager warned the committee during the summer that insurance costs were running high for the year, they said.
The workshop agenda contained a resolution to pay those bills with money from the not-yet-created 2010 budget through an emergency appropriation.
The Democrats, however, refused to vote for the resolution. The $1.3 million, when tallied with existing debt, would put the township in a $4 million deficit to begin 2010, Byrnes said.
“It’s a huge number, and it’s frightening. I think we can do it [balance the 2010 budget], but I think there’s a lot of radical steps that need to be done,” Byrnes said….