September 23, 2010
RE: LEAGUE URGES ACTION ON ARBITRATION REFORM
Back in July, following the passage of the new 2 percent property tax levy cap, Rumson Borough was one of the first towns to receive an arbitrator’s award. The award calls for 3.5, 3.5 and 3.25-percent pay increases retroactive to when the union’s contract expired at the end of 2006. For 2010, officers would get increases of 3 percent, and 2.75-percent next year.
At the time, Mayor John Ekdahl stated that the award created a “privileged class” of employees. And the governing body appealed the award to the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
Then last week, in accord with an 86-page arbitrator's report, the Borough of Belmar learned that it will have to pay its police officers a 15 percent increase over a five-year period that dates back to 2008, despite the 2 percent cap.
"This equates to a 3 percent increase per year, not withstanding the 2 percent cap we now have to meet," said Mayor Kenneth Pringle, who is on record supporting the cap. "I saw it as a way to force municipalities to share services."
"I don't know what we are going to do," Mayor Pringle continued. "We can no longer afford to maintain the size of our Police Department."
It has now been seven weeks since the Governor signed the new 2% levy cap into law. The League had asked the Governor and the Legislature to delay action on the cap until after they had agreed on management reforms and mandates relief items that would make that cap workable. Our request was ignored. As we feared, there is a danger that inertia has set in. Agreement on management reforms and mandates relief has NOT been reached.
Now is the time for progress. Going forward, the situation can only improve IF serious reforms are enacted and unfunded mandates are relieved or repealed. Attention to the Binding Interest Arbitration mandate should top the list of State priorities for meaningful property tax relief.
Please see our letter of September 20 (http://www.njslom.org/letters/ml092010-coah.html) for details and contact information on this, and other crucial matters.
We have posted a White Paper on Binding Arbitration Reform on our website. You can access it at http://www.njslom.org/letters/arbitration-reform-092310.html. This is the first in what will be a series of White Papers on other aspects of the ‘toolkit’ and mandates relief.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.