Crowd objects layoffs in Hamilton Twp.

February 7, 2011 8:55:54 PM PST
The economy may be trying to mount a recovery in some sectors, but don't tell that to public employees in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

With three resolutions passing at township committee meeting Monday, 32 fulltime Hamilton Township employees and 9 part timers were laid off.

"I understand that those impacted are frustrated, the governing body is just as frustrated, unfortunately, this is the economic reality in which we are living," Hamilton Township Mayor Amy Gatto said.

The Township maintains eliminating the positions will help close the $2.4-million structural deficit, and adds employees could be brought back if concessions are later agreed upon.

The breakdown for fulltime employee layoffs includes 14 Teamsters, 5 non-union workers, and 13 police officers, an increase from the original count of 11 officers.

"I increased the number of proposed layoffs in the units that did not provide the concessions," Township Administrator Mike Jacobs said.

But it was after the vote that the meeting really heated up with much of the public commentary ripping the committee's move.

"The streets will not be as clean, not as be as safe, and we are headed down a path that is going to be almost irreversible," resident Bill McKnight said.

"I want to ask the audience if they are tired - tired of the lies, tired of the deceit, tired of your subpar leaders making poor decisions that only make your quality of life worse," laid off worker Michael Peterson said.

Critics argue the Township was asking for unreasonable concessions and believe more jobs could have been saved if the committee did not delay the vote until after elections.

"They didn't want to discuss it because it was getting close to election time and the mayor and former mayor were up for reelection," Ray Theriault of the Police Union said.

The layoffs account for about half of the deficit; other measures will have to be taken including a local tax increase. These numbers are all assuming state aid remains the same as last year, if it doesn't, there could be additional layoffs.