IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss has confirmed that his administration is asking township employees to accept furloughs and layoffs in order to close a $3.25 million gap in the 2017 municipal budget.
According to a memo from Irvington Finance Director Faheem Ra’Oof, addressed to township business administrator Musa Malik and Wally Riglicki, who was hired to audit the township’s fiscal and financial records, there are two reasons municipal employees are facing furloughs and layoffs this year: An unanticipated increase in expenses and the rising cost of health care.
“As per my discussion with the auditor, as of Dec. 31, 2015, the township audit will reflect the following: Unanticipated increases for joint sewer charges, municipal debt service, deferred charges and pension costs that the township has no control over,” Ra’Oof stated in the memo on Tuesday, April 4. “These increases are the result of state statute, regulatory control or debt service before the Vauss administration; and an over-expenditure noted in the 2015 audit, which was recently completed.”
Ra’Oof went on to state: “The township of Irvington Audit Report will show that we have the following: Total Current Fund deferred charge of $5,163,924.44 and a Total Current Fund Surplus (Fund Balance) is: $4,518,742.80 and Excess of Deferred charges Over Surplus $645,181.64.
“However, the township has a fund surplus that we are legally prohibited from accessing to cover the above two items. State of New Jersey Statutory Law does not allow surplus to be appropriated when deferred charges exceed surplus. In addition to the surplus identified above, the township also has a General Capital Surplus (Fund Balance) $785,000.56. If the township were allowed to appropriate our surplus, it would result in no furloughs for 2017.”
Ra’Oof also stated that the “over-expenditure noted in the 2015 audit” was due to health care costs not any actual overspending by the administration.
Thanks to their contracts and the nature of their work, members of the fire and police departments can’t be laid off or forced to take furlough days unless they agree to it by a union vote. So, technically, the township can’t make them take the layoffs or furloughs the Vauss administration is considering implementing for other municipal civil service employees; the township would first have to submit a layoff and furlough plan to the state for approval.
According to Vauss, he has already met with members of the Irvington Police Department’s PBA Local 29 and the Fire Department’s IAFF Local 305 to ask them to vote to accept the township’s furlough plan. Reportedly, layoffs were not discussed at all.
As the Irvington Herald went to press this week, there were no comments about the Vauss administration layoff and furlough plan detailed in Ra’Oof’s recent memo from PBA Local 29 President Maurice Gattison or IAFF Local 305 President Mike Scott. Gattison has previously spoken about the rumors that were circulating around town before Vauss and Ra’Oof confirmed them on Tuesday, April 4.
“I don’t have any comment at this time,” said Gattison on Tuesday, April 4. “I have a meeting with my members to discuss what we’re going to do so I don’t want to comment about it yet.”
According to Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, Ra’Oof’s memo is an attempt to gloss over the fact that the Vauss administration’s “overspending” caused the $3.2 million budget deficit in the Calendar Year 2017 Municipal Budget. The former Irvington Housing Authority commissioner, who criticized the township’s shared services agreement with the township, has been warning for years about payments on bonds that were “floated” years ago by previous administrations that were about to come due on Vauss’ watch as mayor.
“Layoffs cannot accumulate enough funds,” said Witcher on Friday, April 7. “Why did they move to think about this plan for shared services if they did not know how it was supposed to operate? What happened to the funds that were spent for other purposes? That usually means someone owed money perhaps that they borrowed by way of ‘illegal’ transfer. Is that why certain other groups do not have their usual doles to do activities with?”