As reported by nj.com, on Thursday, Old Bridge Township laid off 10 officers and issued notices that some supervising officers, including captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, would be reduced in rank. Mayor Owen Henry said the department was reduced from 91 officers to 81 because of a recent arbitration award resolving a police contract dating back to 2008.
The settlement, Henry said, would have increased the budget this year by $850,000. He said the 10 layoffs of the most recently hired officers covered most of that cost, but he was taking $250,000 in reserve funds to cover some of the costs. “These are very good people,” he said of the officers losing their jobs. “They deserve better than this. The residents deserve better than this.”
This week Henry met with the police unions in unsuccessful negotiations aimed at preventing the layoffs. This is the second round of layoffs. On February 24, 12 municipal employees in other departments were laid off, with some of the people taking retirement, as part of an effort to close a $2 million budget gap.
He blamed the fiscal problems on the prior Democratic administration. Democratic Councilman G. Kevin Calogera disputed Henry’s claims. “I think it’s unnecessary. I think there are other options,” he said. Former Mayor James Phillips, who left office last spring, said the township had the resources to save the jobs. Henry said he is seeking ways to re-hire the officers.
State PBA President Anthony Wieners issued a statement saying police layoffs provide only short-term savings at best. “In communities that lay officers off, crime rises and the quality of life issues suffer,” he said.