Written by KOTW
Saturday, 20 November 2010 10:25
November 20, 2010 (Kearny, NJ)The Kearny Discussion Board has heated up with discussions related to the proposed layoffs of police and firefighters by Mayor Alberto Santos. The tough economy and a state mandated property tax cap has forced Mayor Santos into making some tough economic decisions. Mayor Santos is not alone. Harrison, East Newark and North Arlington have made cuts in their budgets including layoffs of town workers. Mayor Santos however is getting a lot of heat for his planned layoffs of police and fire personnel. Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough has not laid off any police or fire personnel although there were some cost savings from retirements in the fire department. Mayor Joseph Smith has not laid off any police officers or fire personnel. East Newark has a small Police Department and a volunteer fire department.
One of the topics opened up this week was entitled, Leadbeater was right. Guest poster, Old Timer, started off the topic with the following:
"I just got done reading this weeks Observer and am totally shocked at what our supposed mayor says. We are going to layoff essential service personnel, police and firemen, because of a 5 million dollar shortfall. When Leadbeater was running against Santos he continued to tell us how they were lying about the surplus. Yet you Kearny residents fell for his line of s__t once again. Well I guess he was right. Instead of getting the board of education to look at reductions (because they represent over 50% of our taxes) the mayor has stooped to a new low. Stop spending money on playgrounds and keep the employees. Rid yourself of all the attorneys and see how much you save there."
After a few supportive posts, it did not take long for another Guest member of the KOTW Community to chime in with the following:
"The board of education budget has nothing to do with the town budget and does not come under the mayor's juristiction. After reading the article in the Observer this morning written by the police union, I decided to do a little research and find out exactly how much a police officer makes in Kearny. The median salary for a Kearny police officer is $97,007.00 and of the 118 officers, 44% of them make six figures. Not bad. I don't think they have anything to complain about.
My heart does go out to the young officers at the bottom of the lists who have families and or are trying to move on with their lives and maybe start families that are in danger of being laid off.
KOTW hopes that the Discussions related to this important issue facing the Town of Kearny will lead to better decision making on the part of the Mayor and Council. The Discussion will also hopefully give Police and Fire personnel an insight into the difficult challenges faced by Mayor Santos in providing basic services while trying to hold the line on property taxes. Police and Fire personnel surely understand the economic challenges of residents and the necessity to find a safety valve to ever increasing property taxes.
Nobody wants to cut Police or Fire personnel. The economy however has forced tough decisions. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed fire house "brownouts" where Firehouses throughout the City will close at night on a rotating basis as part of his budgetary cuts. The unusual proposal of "brownouts" of fire protection demonstrates how bad the budget deficits are and how elected officials have to come up with creative ideas to meet the challenge of balancing their budgets.
It did not take long for a member of the KOTW community to point out that the Kearny Board of Education Budget makes up over 50 percent of the taxpayer property tax bill. Although Mayor Santos does not have direct control over the school board budget, Mayor Santos could be very influential in making sure that the Kearny Board of Education is running efficiently and also contributes to the "shared sacrifice" of other town departments.
If Mayor Santos wanted to find efficiencies, he could mandate that the Town of Kearny and the Board of Education open its books up to the public. For several weeks, the link to the town budget on Kearny's Official Website did not work. The school budget is not online. Although giving the public access to a summary version of the town and school budget are important first steps to good government, the posting of actual payments made to individuals and vendors would give those interested in finding areas of cost savings access to the raw data that makes up summary line items on the official budgets for the town and school board.
KOTW is confident that given access to the information that its members would find alternative cost saving measures in both the town and school budgets that would most likely eliminate the need to lay off police and fire personnel.
Are the Police and Fire unions ready to push for Open Government in the form of getting the raw data that makes up the summary line items on the official town and school budgets? Individual taxpayers do not have the resources or the time to make such a request. Union leaders and their lawyers can. Even if Police and Fire Personnel are laid off, the unions can then put together suggestions based on facts on where the town and school can find cost saving measures to enable to Mayor and Council to restore Police and Fire personnel.
Let us know what you think. Our Discussion Board is open 24/7 just like the Police and Fire Departments. On occasion we too experience a "brownout" when our server goes down.