Middletown Budget to be Introduced April 4: Call for Union Compromise
Shared services, two percent cap commitments reiterated by committee
Middletown’s municipal budget set for introduction at the April 4 Township Committee meeting, Mayor Anthony Fiore reiterated at Monday night’s meeting his commitment to staying within Gov. Chris Christie’s two percent cap on spending and his theory of why the unions’ and township library’s cooperation in compromise are key.
He first thanked the Middletown Township Library Board of Trustees for agreeing to release to the township roughly $500,000 of its $1.2 million surplus to assist with budget restriction woes and stave off more than the estimated 26 layoffs and service cuts. The mayor again reassured that with the agreement that is “something that’s happened across the state” intact, the library would, in turn, benefit from economic, bundled capital improvements and shared services, including solar energy initiatives.
The solar project is one on which the township is working as part of its shared services commitment, an effort in which Fiore emphasized Middletown has been “steadfast” in implementing.
The Board of Education is, so far, on board with the solar program, as are the library board and sewerage authority. There have also been talks about regionalizing the Middletown and Highlands police departments.
Though, the reality of the concept coming to fruition is in an extremely preliminary stage. It would take years to develop, given the present state civil service parameters within which many municipalities’ departments must work, Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante had said in a Patch interview.
Along those lines, Fiore and Committeeman Gerard Scharfenberger also stressed that the state legislature’s cooperation in passing at least many of the governor’s tool kit to cut spending proposals is critical to assisting municipalities in making budget restrictions a reality.
“We continue to be hampered by civil service (rules and regulations) roadblocks,” Fiore said. “The tool kit will help towns to comply (better) with unions. There has been little movement with unions (agreeing to contract sacrifices). I am confident that we can come to compromises” to ultimately save township jobs and services.
In most cases, Mercantante had said, civil service mandates that seniority wins out when cutting jobs/positions; and, that’s not the only right way to go. There are times when a higher up, he had added, may not be as productive, skilled and/or inexpensive as a newer hire.
All considered, Fiore once again announced that the township would not, under any circumstances, be violating the state’s two percent cap rule this year.