Public Safety a Major Concern as Galloway Considers Layoffs
Notices were issued to nearly all employees on Monday.
Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy, speaking at the start of Tuesday night’s council meeting at the municipal complex. reiterated the township’s commitment to public safety but said the township recognizes the financial crisis the township and the nation currently faces.
The comments were made following news reports over the weekend that every township employee, including those in the police department, would receive layoff notices. On Monday, Sept. 10, most employees received those notices as the township continues to work on the 2013 budget.
Only those classified as statutory employees didn’t receive the notices. According to Township Clerk Thalia C. Kay, these employees included: Kay; Chief Financial Officer Marilyn Dolcy; Tax Collector Sharon Riley; Tax Assessor Dave Jackson; and Registrar Carol Hackney. Police Chief Patrick Moran confirmed that he and Police Captain Alan Kane didn’t receive layoff notices either.
During the meeting, Purdy said about “90 percent” of employees received the notices.
“We all know not every employee is going to be laid off,” Purdy said. “We’re not going bankrupt. We’re not closing the doors.”
Employees must receive notices of possible layoffs before any layoffs can take effect, according to state law.
Employees were first furloughed two years ago, after an initial notice of possible layoffs, such as the one that was issued Monday.
Layoffs were first discussed during the during the budget process, shortly after Arch Liston took over as Township Manager. Employees have been furloughed for the last two years, and the most recent round of employee furloughs ended on Aug. 31.
“Furloughs were a great concept when we needed to cut costs and we thought the economy would recover,” Liston said during a budget workshop earlier this year. “That hasn’t happened.”
Employees received mandatory furloughs, but later won a grievance after those furloughs were extended. As part of the agreement, employees agreed not to take back wages. They agreed to 12 furlough days in 2012 in exchange for not having to worry about layoffs.
That agreement expires Dec. 31. With the expiration of that agreement, the township issued layoff notices to all employees, although it’s unclear how many people may need to be laid off.
“I can’t tell a number because we don’t know a number,” Purdy said. “I can’t tell you everything’s going to be OK, or that only a few people are going to be laid off. … The township manager said we’ll have to do layoffs. This is a real crisis.”
Purdy said the impact of tax appeals on the township this year alone is $1.5 million.
“It was another million dollars last year, and it was hundreds of thousands of dollars the year before that,” Purdy said.
Moran spoke during the public comment portion, reiterating the difficulties the police department facing the department, which has seen a reduction from 74 to 54 officers since 2009.
“Since 2009, we’ve had a 27 percent drop in staff and a 36 percent increase in calls for service,” Moran said. “Our response time has increased by one minute for all types of calls. We have one of the largest municipalities in the county, and during the day, it increases by 20,000 people (because of the traffic going to Atlantic City, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center Mainland Campus).”
Moran pointed to an increased police presence in Atlantic City.
“As the police increase in Atlantic City, the criminal element becomes displaced,” Moran said. “We’ve been stopping more cars and arresting more people.”
He spoke about the police department giving back $250,000-$300,000 over the last four years, and the shared services with Absecon and Mullica Township. He also spoke of the inevitable fatigue that sets in with a smaller department.
“You can only run for so long before you have to slow down and walk,” Moran said. “It doesn’t appear we’re going to be able to walk. We may have to run further and faster and any decrease in the police department will have a devastating impact on public safety.”
After he spoke to council, the employees who packed the municipal complex for Tuesday night’s meeting broke out in applause.
Purdy said he wouldn’t vote in favor of laying off any police officers, but he also spoke of the sacrifices all employees have made.
“The employees have given back more than any employees in any other municipality in the area,” Purdy said. “This hurts me. I couldn’t sleep for three days. … We’re talking about people with families. We’ve been working hard to come up with fixes, but there’s no fat left in this budget. There’s nothing we can do to help the problem right now.”