An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo that would block state imposed layoffs for Atlantic City public safety employees without the state first offering, in writing, an early retirement incentive plan.
“We can’t throw away the positive strides made in Atlantic City by jeopardizing public safety. Atlantic City’s Police and Fire Departments have made significant cuts over the past few years to bring themselves in line with the needs of the community. Additional restructuring can happen through Early Retirement Incentives which is why I worked to include that as a cornerstone of the intervention legislation.
“In addition, if the state designee were to move forward with the massive layoffs as planned, Atlantic City’s federal Fire SAFER Grant would be at risk. This grant directly pays for 84 full-time firefighters at no cost to the taxpayer,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic).
Atlantic City has been under state control since 2016 pursuant to the authority granted to the Local Finance Board through the “Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act.” The unions, which represent public safety employees, have made attempts to negotiate with the state and reduce the size of its government while protecting the public health, safety, and welfare of Atlantic City residents and guests.
In March 2017, the Police Benevolent Association Local 24 and the city’s Superior Officers Association filed a lawsuit challenging their new contracts, arguing that the state takeover law is unconstitutional and that the staff cuts could harm public safety. In May 2017, a judge allowed the cuts which implemented new police salary guides, eliminated longevity, education and terminal leave benefits, shifted police to a new health care plan, and changed rules regarding overtime, sick leave, vacation time and workers compensation. However, the judge temporarily is not allowing layoffs and changes to the work schedule. Additionally, the firefighters union, IAFF Local 198 sued and the judge blocked the state’s plan for layoffs.
Mazzeo’s legislation (A-4840) would amend the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act by specifically requiring that a municipality deemed in need of stabilization cannot institute layoffs in a public safety department without first offering, in writing, an early retirement incentive offer.
Additionally, the bill was amended to change existing law to provide that a municipality in need of stabilization and recovery that offers its employees a retirement incentive program will not pay interest on the amount of its liability to the retirement system; and reduce the maximum allowable period over which the municipality may pay the liability to the retirement system from 15 years to 10 years.
“It’s already evident in the community that the perception of Atlantic City is turning a corner in a positive direction. That’s because positive results for the residents and businesses of Atlantic City have made a real impact – the first municipal tax decrease in two decades, over $70 million saved from negotiations with the Borgata, the announcement of 3,000 jobs at the new Hard Rock Casino and the groundbreaking of Stockton University’s Gateway Campus. But more needs to be done.
“While buyouts will require upfront costs to the city, they can absorb those costs over a maximum of 10 years, while saving tens of millions of dollars in the long run – needed funds that will help the city finally get its fiscal house in order. This is the right deal for Atlantic City, the taxpayers, and our hardworking police and firefighters,” concluded Mazzeo.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.