WILDWOOD — About 40 of the city’s 215 employees have received or will receive layoff notices, as the city looks for a way to avoid raising taxes and fees, officials said Thursday.
Commissioner Edward Harshaw said that not all of those notified would lose their jobs, but informing city employees of the possibility of layoffs was a step in the process.
The number of layoff notices means that 18.6 percent of city jobs could be affected.
“This is a preliminary number,” Harshaw said of the number of layoff notices. “If the unions give us some concessions, we may not have to lay anybody off.
“We’re looking at how many people we are able to let go and still operate efficiently,” Harshaw said.
The city sent letters Feb. 4 to the heads of the UAW Local 2327, FOP Lodge No. 7 and FMBA Local 50 informing those unions that the Wildwood employees they represent could face layoffs.
In the letters, the city commissioners said raising taxes and fees was not the answer to the city’s budget woes.
Taxes here went up 18.2 cents in 2009 when the city adopted a $26.1 million budget, including a $20.4 million tax levy.
The current local purpose tax rate is $1.11 per $100 of assessed value and the total tax rate is $1.83 per $100 of assessed value.
In comparison, North Wildwood’s total tax rate for 2009 is 81.6 cents and its local tax rate is 45 cents. Wildwood Crest’s total tax rate is 96.1 cents, while its local purpose tax rate is 49.5 cents.
In the letters to the unions, the commissioners went on to warn that “the solution will have to be a shared sacrifice. The vast majority of the city of Wildwood’s budget is employee based; that means that the immediate solution has to (be) employee based.”
Harshaw, who oversees public works, said about 19 employees in the 75-member department were given notice.
“It’s a terrible, terrible decision you have to make,” Harshaw said, adding that employees were naturally angry and upset at the news.
Sue Fisher, a Wildwood resident, works at the Byrne Community Center as a recreation leader and is one of those facing the loss of her job.
When asked what she likes about her job, Fisher didn’t hesitate.
“Everything,” Fisher said Thursday. “The kids mostly.”
She does everything from answering the phone and registering new users to playing a game of kickball with the young children who visit the center.
On Wednesday, Fisher said, she was told by Personnel Director Gordon Ball that she was one of the city employees who could be laid off this year.
Fisher said the news left her concerned for herself, her fellow city employees and the children the center serves.
“Nobody knows the kids better than us,” Fisher said of the role she and the rest of the recreation staff play in the community. “I’ve known a lot of them since they were born.”
“The children are going to suffer for it,” she said.
Police Lt. Christopher Howard, the local FOP representative, said his union represents 42 people — the entire city police force.
As of Thursday, none had received layoff notices, he said. The union has been working 14 months without a contract.
“We’re still negotiating. We had a negotiation session today and it’s been productive,” Howard said Thursday
Howard said the union understands that the city and the country are facing difficult economic times.
“We appreciate the support of the public in Wildwood and we’re doing everything we can to work with the city,” he said.
Fisher, who is represented by the UAW, said she would be willing to make changes if it will save jobs.
“If it’s going to help, I’ll work a four-day work week,” Fisher said. “I just feel sorry for everybody that got notice. I really do.”
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