City and county officials in New Jersey are asking the state Legislature to keep in place rules that limit how high salary increases can go when police and firefighter contracts are settled in arbitration. That limit - currently at two percent - expires at the end of this year.
Hunterdon County Freeholder John King says the cap has proven to be a valuable tool.
“Before the two percent cap arbitrators routinely awarded contracts that averaged five percent or better. And we’re concerned that leaving contractual disputes to the discretion of a third party will once again lead to excessive awards that do not fall within the two percent restriction on local government spending.”
East Rutherford Mayor Jim Cassella says if the cap is not extended, municipal officials could have to make some tough choices.
“You have to reduce services in another area, whatever that area is. Or reduce police or fire manpower. That’s the bottom line. You either have to not hire or possibly lay off because you will not have enough money to pay them.”
Democratic leaders in the state legislature say they want to wait for a task force report before deciding whether to make the cap permanent.
Mike Darcy with the New Jersey League of Municipalities says local officials want it done now.
“We know what the impact is. The report will only reinforce what we already know. And the timing of getting this done before the expiration of the cap is very important. Municipal budgets, county budgets, have to be prepared before that deadline happens.”