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Statement by Jim Anzaldi, Mayor of Clifton and President of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities

Presented to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Civil Service Reforms
Monday, August 16, 2010

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you regarding the much need reforms to Civil Service. 

According to the Civil Service Commission their mission is “to attract, develop and retain a high quality workforce for State, County and Municipal governments” while it “maintains a partnership with management and labor to develop a fair, efficient human resource delivery system rewarding quality, merit and productivity.”  Unfortunately, the process has become so costly and burdensome that both management and employees’ hands have become tied.

In order to properly deal with today’s economy, governments need to become leaner, more streamlined and more flexible, if they are going to be able to continue providing services that the public has come to expect.  The current system under the Civil Service rules makes this almost impossible.   The present Civil Service rules and regulations make it extremely difficult for a public manager to terminate non-productive employees.  It is even more difficult to reward productive employees, to recruit the best qualified candidates or cross-train personnel to meet community needs.   

Ideally, we would like the ability for Civil Service communities to opt-out of Civil Service.  “We the people” can amend our Constitution – our basic framework of civil rights and self-government.    Further “We the people” can vote to enter Civil Service but we cannot rescind a personnel policy decision made decades ago and leave the civil service system.   Once that decision is made, the State statute mandates that future generations of municipal citizens are bound by it and can’t get out.

We recognize that some of the Civil Service municipalities would like to remain in the System.  But in order to manage effectively and meet today’s demands the system must be modernize.   Changes must be made to the lay-off process, furloughs, bumping rights, desk audits, employee appeals process, employee transfers, special re-employment lists and rules governing shared services and consolidation of services.

In the City of Clifton we have almost 600 employees who provide services to 78,000 plus residents.  2009 was a difficult budget year, which was compounded by the loss of state aid.  In order to meet the 4% tax levy cap we had to request voluntary furloughs; demote police, fire and public works employees; freeze new hiring and filling of vacancies, which left 15 police officers positions unfilled; request give-backs from employees; eliminate 85 employees; and close a fire house for approximately two months, at which time the firefighters union agreed to half of million dollars in concessions to re-open the fire house.

The layoff process is lengthy and created several unintended consequences.  The City submitted its layoff plan on December 17, 2008, however, the lay offs did not take effect until March 6, 2009.  We had challenges to the layoff plan but they were all resolved in the City’s favor.

Unfortunately, we experienced some troubling unintended consequences.  Bumping rights resulted in positions that where not targeted for reduction to be effected.  Employees in the non-targeted positions lost their positions due to bumping rights.  As a result you had a less qualified employee in a position that required resources to re-training an employee.  In addition, part-time employees, who had seniority, bumped full time employees.  We had three full time positions that we had to offer to the part-time employee and displace the full time employee.

One prime example was a twenty-one year employee who worked in the tax department.  When a retirement occurred in the Municipal Clerks office, Civil Service would not allow this employee to take the job even though she was more than qualified to do so.  The Civil Service system, at the very least, needs to be brought into the 21st century.

Today, Washington Township Mayor Samir Elbassiouny, Wantage Township Administrator Jim Doherty, Millburn Township Administrator Tim Gordon and Middletown Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante join me in urging you to reform the current civil service process.  We need flexibility, such as the ability to opt-out of civil service and modernize rules.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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