Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Budget Introduction Delayed

Image: Cynthia Smith, president of the PMEA.

Questions over layoff decisions derailed the expected introduction of the SFY 2010 budget for the year that began July 1, 2009.

A large number of members of the Plainfield Municipal Employees Association came out for Monday's City Council meeting, hoping to be heard at a 6:30 p.m. executive session, but union president Cynthia Smith said the group was ejected because although 18 people received layoff notices, three were out of town and so did not respond.

Lacking a full complement, the union was denied a hearing, Smith said.

The crowd was only admitted once the meeting was opened, nearly an hour after the stated 8 p.m. starting time.

Officials announced the budget introduction would now take place at a special meeting at 8 p.m. Nov. 23, following a special 6:30 p.m. executive session that evening.

Speakers on the issue of budget reductions advocated furloughs, givebacks, concessions and attrition as ways to cut costs.

Smith said most of the PMEA members live in Plainfield and are taxpayers who would be doubly hit by layoffs, suffering both income loss and possible foreclosures on their homes.

While PMEA members are 80 to 85 percent Plainfield residents, she said, other bargaining units'
member residency is only 15 percent, she said.

"Stop the targeted cuts," Smith said.

Other speakers said proposed cuts to the Planning Division would severely impact city initiatives, such as the historic preservation movement and the efforts of the Shade Tree Commission.

Resident Frank D'Aversa said the city must try to negotiate with its unions.

"There has to be a stick and there has to be a carrot," he said.

In all, speakers held out hope that some sort of dialogue would emerge to reduce costs.

City Adminstrator Marc Dashield recently said all of the city's multiple bargaining units would be up for contract renewal at the end of 2009, but City Council President Rashid Burney reported on his blog that those talks did not result in any concessions.

With time marching on and the budget year elapsing, there will be fewer and fewer chances to cut costs.

The new Citizen Budget Advisory Committee will have less and less leeway to suggest cuts.

Stay tuned for future developments.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scarcasm. Woe. Doom and Gloom. Bernice, did anything good happen?

Why do we gat annoyed with the newspapers for printing and putting everything in a negative light when our own bloggers excell and exceed at it?

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this is interesting... there will be a 10% tax increase. People in Plainfield voted Sharon back into office, now here are the consequences.

PLAINFIELD — Homeowners here are expected to experience a nearly 10 percent spike in their property taxes for the fiscal year 2010, but city officials say that the hit could have been much worse.
The city is slashing 25 vacant municipal positions and also anticipates additional layoffs in order to curb initial projections that showed a 20 percent tax hike was in order.
"We don't want to go anywhere near those percentages," Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said.
City Administrator Marc Dashield introduced the $73 million budget to the City Council late Monday, explaining that the average city household, with a home assessed at approximately $113,000, can expect to pay about $400 more during the fiscal year that started this summer. The tax levy is expected to rise from just under $45 million last year to $49.3 million.
Dashield cited a two-pronged reason for the hike, which comes on the heels of a little more than a 3.5 percent hike last year. Municipal revenues have fallen 9.6 percent since the fiscal year 2006, he said, while the city's pension expenses have tripled during that time.
Dashield also said the elimination of vacant positions will affect "pretty much every (city) department," and declined comment on how many additional layoffs might be needed or what municipal departments might be further affected. The final numbers likely will hinge on whether officials can convince at least seven different municipal unions to offer financial concessions in order to save jobs, he said.
"Just like our families (living here), we've got to make some difficult decisions," Dashield said.
The city also has applied for $3.5 million in extraordinary aid from the state, according to Dashield, who commented that "we don't expect to get anywhere near that."
Municipal employees implored the council and Robinson-Briggs administration not to introduce layoffs, while other residents decried the tax hike as excessive.
"I guess Comcast (cable) is going to be the next thing to go in my house," resident Nancy Piwowar said.
"When I can't pay my taxes, please save my house," said Monica Johnson, whom city records show is employed as a senior program analyst in the city's Recreation Division.
Dashield said he's not sure when officials might know the scope of additional municipal layoffs. The council will vote to introduce the budget during its Nov. 16 business meeting, and a final passage is expected later this year or early next year.
Councilman Adrian Mapp said members of the city's administration and governing body both should consider implementing mandatory furloughs of one day per month for all municipal employees in order to trim costs, an idea others said would be considered during the coming weeks

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the administration and council require city employees to pay for part of their very good health benefit package? They pay nothing and can cover a whole family on the backs of the taxpayers! How many people out there get their health benefits for "free" from their employer? I don't know of one person in my wide circle of family, friends and acquaintances who do. This would save alot of tax money.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Bernice said...

FYI y'all - 11:12 AM included Mark Spivey's Nov. 11 report in the post. Technically it is not nice to excerpt an entire article, especially without attribution. Please refrain from doing so in the future.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I cannot believe that Dashield or corporation council did anything other than ask the unions for concessions. The unions said no, that was it. So, when people are laid off instead of getting concessions, maybe the rest will get the picture. The administration really needs to point out to the unions that it is making concessions or no jobs. And that goes for police, fire and Jenifer Wenson Meir.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There will have to be layoffs, pure and simple. I was laid off two times in my career. It happens. The city needs to be preparing workers for the layoffs by finding out what training exists for them for the future. We no longer live in a society where individuals can keep a single job for life. In Plainfield, there are all these "program analyst" jobs, vague titles for people who barely have computer skills. They make about $45-50,000 dollars or more working a 35 hour week. The waste is ridiculous. No one wants to see people lose their jobs, but Plainfield cannot afford to prop up unneeded salaries. Many of the jobs in recreation can go as well as in inspections and public works and some of the secretary jobs. All the part time jobs should go. In personnel, the tax office, the city clerk's office, there are many bodies that are no longer needed due to automation. That will save a lot of money in terms of the health and pension benefits. Some of the firefighters and some of the police especially at the top level need to go. Retraining has to take place. The city cannot sustain this pace and the mayor and the city council know it. They can rail against the economy all they want, but something has to happen. They can't keep their heads in the sand. Many of us will be looking at the budget and suggesting places where it can be trimmed. When I visit city hall, I don't see efficiency anywhere. The mayor doesn't need more than 1 part-time secretary. That is why the city administrator has a secretary. The mayor doesn't need a personal aide. This is ridiculous. I hope the citizen's budget committee will let the mayor know this. I hope the mayor can justify why she needs a personal aide or confidential assistant. Everyone needs to justify the jobs in their departments, every single individual and every single job.

9:49 AM  

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