MILLVILLE - City officials officials have asked police to accept eight furlough days to prevent the layoffs of nine officers and a dispatcher.

Mayor Tim Shannon outlined what the city needs from its public safety personnel and their unions to save jobs while avoiding a property-tax increase during a news conference Monday at City Hall.

The city informed the police employees in May that their jobs may be eliminated. Officials set a deadline of July 1 to reach an agreement with police to avoid layoffs.

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"We're coming down to the 11th hour, and we have to get this done by the end of the month," Shannon said. "I felt, at this point, that it was time for the city to express what is actually needed."

The commissioners have resolved not to increase taxes and are not willing to extend negotiations with police over concessions into a new month.

Even as residents called on the city for answers during public meetings, commissioners mostly have provided only broad analysis of the budget and anecdotes about the difficulty in finding a solution. Vice Mayor Joe Derella said the reason specifics about what the city was asking for have not come out in the past is because the budget changes.

Originally, the city was looking at about 14 furlough days needed to save the jobs of the officers and dispatcher, although that number has come down as money has been allocated and police retirements have been factored in.

The city can demand layoffs but cannot mandate layoffs of its public safety employees, Commissioner Dave Vanaman said. At City Hall, employees are taking a 10 percent pay cut across the board and also have changed to a state health care plan to save money.

The city also is requiring concessions from its firefighters. It would save a little more than $85,000 on its budget next year if the Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association agrees to a salary freeze for a year and reductions in overtime and clothing allowance.

Tonight, the City Commission expects another large crowd of police and supporters, unless the city's furlough plan is not immediately accepted.

"I wanted to get the city's side out there," Shannon said. "The last couple meetings have been very emotional. I wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page."

The Police Department is represented by the Police Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association.

Although they were not originally invited, Shannon allowed four officers to stand in on the news conference, including local Superior Officers Association President Sgt. Matt Rabbai and local PBA President K-9 Patrolman Tony Loteck.

Shannon insisted that the meeting was not an attempt to elicit an immediate response from the unions, saying the bargaining units have met to discuss the very issue presented publicly and will continue to meet.

A separate issue, one that is out of the hands of the city and its police, is a new police contract. Millville's police have been without a contract for several years. When the city and police were unable to come to an agreement, the contract dispute went to an arbitrator. After more than a year, no agreement has been reached.

Shannon said the delay in a new contract has made settling the current issue of layoffs more difficult. Loteck said there are currently 218 unions in arbitration throughout the state.

Rabbai said the contract issue is frustrating, although he does not expect it to prevent the department's unions from meeting with the city and resolving the layoff situation, in some capacity, before the month ends.

Whether the police are willing to accept the eight furlough days is unclear.

"We'll bring everything back to our body, explain everything that's been offered by the city and take a vote on it," Rabbai said. "We want what the city wants, no kinds of layoffs. You lose nine guys, and there's a safety factor involved. You want to make sure your officers are safe."

Contact Edward Van Embden:

856-649-2072

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