77 Township Workers Given Layoff Notices
All were in the public works department, officials confirm
A total of 77 township employees, all from the public works department, were given layoff notices Wednesday.
The layoffs would effectively end public collection of trash and recycling, as well as reduce staff in the township's road department.
Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said the layoffs are part of a plan to reduce the size of government and roll back a tax hike from last year that was the result of a referendum. Should public works be eliminated, private haulers would collect trash and recycling.
The municipal budget would be reduced by about $8 million, he said.
According to a copy of one of the notices provided to Brick Patch by an official with the Transport Workers Union – the organization that represents public works employees in Brick – the layoffs are being planned for reasons of "economy and efficiency."
Business Administrator Scott Pezarras confirmed the township's layoff plan sheds 77 jobs and is limited to the public works department.
According to the notices, the layoffs would be effective on or about the close of the work day March 30.
The layoff notices indicate Acropolis is making good on his promise earlier this year to roll back tax hikes that resulted from a referendum passed in 2011 that kept services such as public trash and recycling collection in place.
"We're having layoffs because people in Brick Township demanded a tax cut," Acropolis said Wednesday, pointing to the November 2011 election, when incumbent Republicans were handily beaten by Democratic challengers who hounded GOP council members on recent tax hikes.
"I'm willing to stand up and say that's what we should be doing in government," the mayor said. "Government should be getting smaller, and the private sector can do it better."
Acropolis said if the public works department – and thus, trash and recycling pickup – was kept in this year's budget, it could have been done within the state's 2 percent cap on expenditures.
"I said we would be OK and we wouldn't need a referendum for the next five years because we wouldn't exceed the cap, and that's true," Acropolis said, but the idea is to reduce the size of government and actually cut taxes.
"I'm going to continue to reduce the number of people who work for Brick Township and I'm going to continue to make government smaller," Acropolis said.
Council President John Ducey said Acropolis promised the town would be on "sound financial footing" if the referendum passed and he looked forward to seeing "why the mayor thinks this is necessary."
"We still haven't seen the budget yet," Ducey said. "It seems like he's playing politics with people's jobs, less than one year later."
John Menshon, TWU chairman, called the plan "shameful."
"I think it's shameful that the mayor continues to play games with people's lives," Menshon said. "The Brick residents made it very clear that they wanted to keep their services, and they passed the referendum."
"He's playing politics with people's lives, and I think it's shameful."
Acropolis said recent deals given to third party contractors in Point Pleasant and other local towns prove trash and recycling collection could be done cheaper by private haulers.
"Things have changed," since last year, he said, when township officials projected the average Brick resident would save money by sticking with in-house services.
All of the details of the township's 2012 operating budget will be revealed by the mayor when he gives his annual budget presentation to the township council on either Feb. 21 or Feb. 28.
Though the township council controls the purse strings of municipal government, layoffs are the responsibility of the mayor's office, Acropolis said.