PASSAIC — Despite tough talk of doing more with less during a recession, the city will forgo layoffs in the police and fire departments even though it could face a $1.4 million deficit next year, union leaders say they’ve been assured by Council President Gary Schaer.
At the Police Benevolent Association’s beefsteak dinner last Thursday and the Passaic Fire Department’s Centennial Ball on Sunday, Schaer delivered the same message: There will be no layoffs, said Mauro Farallo, president of the Passaic Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 14, and Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost. Each man was present at his respective event when Schaer spoke.
The city has yet to approve this year’s budget, but officials are preparing for a potential $1.4 million deficit next year. At a City Council meeting last month, Business Administrator Anthony Iacono said if that deficit comes to pass, the city would have to cut 14 police officers, 11 firefighters and six Department of Public Works employees.
Schaer made his comments before the city’s two most powerful unions, whose members are paid some of the highest salaries in the city. On Monday and Tuesday, the council president failed to return several phone calls seeking clarification of his comments or an explanation of how he would avoid layoffs.
The city could avoid layoffs next July, the start of the 2010 fiscal year, according to Iacono, if the state allows municipalities to push off pension payments or provides increased state aid. The latter could be a long shot if Governor-elect Chris Christie acts on his assertion that municipalities should not expect an increase in discretionary state aid.
Mayor Alex D. Blanco declined comment through spokesman Keith Furlong. “He’s not going to comment on what Gary’s saying. We’re making sure we do everything that is fair to the residents, taxpayers and the employees.”
Farallo said the issue of laying off any of his members is dead.
“That’s great news,” Farallo said.
Lawrence Dostanko, president of Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association Local 13, said he will wait and see.
“What political figure will get up in front of an audience of firefighters, their friends and family and say: ‘Enjoy the party now because as of next year, you’re all gone,’ ” Dostanko said. “He wouldn’t have made it out of the building.”
(News Source – NorthJersey)