Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Truth about the Highlands Borough Budget and the Agreement with Highlands PBA

The following is an explanation of the facts surrounding the recent decision of the Highlands Borough Council on December 1, 2010.

The Borough Council asked the Highlands PBA to agree to a wage freeze to allow the Borough to evaluate our budgetary circumstances in light of the 2.0 cap imposed by the State of NJ upon Municipal budgets. After analysis of the Borough's budget, the Borough Council asked the PBA to find $420,000 in savings. The Highlands PBA contract had already been finalized and there was no obligation on the part of the Highlands PBA to negotiate. The Highlands PBA reviewed the State Health Benefits Plan recommended by the Borough and agreed to accept it. The Highlands PBA and the Highlands Chief of Police have regularly reduced overtime during my tenure as Mayor. Younger officers were hired in order to reduce exorbitant overtime costs necessary to cover State mandated shifts round the clock in the Borough. As of December 1, 2001 the Highlands PBA has agreed to forego overtime completely in exchange for compensatory time. This will guarantee over $100,000 permanent savings to the Borough per year.

The Agreement with the Highlands PBA for which I voted on December 1, 2010 includes:
1. Highlands PBA concession to accept the State Health Benefit Plan, amounting to $320,000 in savings to the Borough of Highlands.
2. Overtime savings in this budget of $66,668.
3. Court time savings in this budget of $8,140.
4. Overtime savings in 2011-2012 budget $106,205.
5. Court time savings in 2011-2012 budget $13,000.
6. Waiver of Retroactive contractual wages that the Borough owed the PBA from July 1, 2010 to December 1, 2010, a savings in this budget of $140,000.
7. The single raise of 4.25% for a six month period from January 1, 2011 until June 30, 2011 allows retirement eligible officers to retire at a wage level less than but nearer to what they would have received under the contract to which the Borough was obligated. This concession also produced a savings to the Borough in the 2011-2012 budget. If retirements which have been mentioned actually occur as verbally represented, substantial savings to the Borough will result.

In conclusion, we must support Governor Christie's tool kit. Toward that end we must ensure that in the 2011 election cycle, WE THE PEOPLE deliver to Governor Christie a State Legislature that will work with him on the Tool Kit and other tax saving initiatives. Until the Tool Kit is in place, agreements with bargaining units are the ONLY way to ensure savings to municipalities. Layoffs of three police officers in the Borough of Highlands surely would have resulted in additional overtime costs to the Borough because of State mandates. Initial calculations indicated that the Borough might have been charged up to $18,000 per month in overtime.

Therefore, the PBA Agreement for which I voted on December 1, 2010 and which secured savings to the Borough of $654,000 (not including the contractual reduction in raises and expected retirement of senior officers) was in the best interests of the People of the Borough of Highlands. It is the People and only the People whom I serve during my tenure in elected office.