ATLANTIC CITY - The state can move forward with plans to slash Atlantic City firefighters' pay and benefits, according to a ruling from Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez.

Mendez released the ruling just minutes before the city's police and fire unions held a rally to protest the cuts inside City Hall on Friday.

Mendez also ruled that the state can't cut the departments ranks to 125 firefighters.

In oral arguments before Mendez last month, the union’s lawyers painted as risky a state proposal to cut the department’s staff nearly in half, citing the lack of a public study on how 100 fewer firefighters would affect public safety.

Ronald Israel, whose law firm is overseeing the city, argued the cuts are necessary to stabilize the city’s finances. He said every month that goes by without the cuts will cost the city $375,000.

The new cuts take effect on Monday. They create a new work schedule and platoon structure.

In addition, the plans cuts salaries, eliminate benefits such as terminal leave, switch firefighters to a cheaper health care plan and adjust rules regarding overtime. Those changes were scheduled to take place last month and would save the city $14 million this year and $5 million per year thereafter, according to the state.

Mendez's ruling against the layoffs will not affect the 85 firefighters the department will lose when a federal grant expires in September.

The two sides must meet a least once per month going forward to discuss state designee Jeffrey Chiesa's plans to reform the department.

Contact: 609-272-7090

SHughes@pressofac.com

Twitter ACPress_hughes

Local news editor at the Press of Atlantic City. SUNY Geneseo and Syracuse University grad. New Jersey transplant.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.