‘Layoffs are on the table’ as Jersey City begins budget review, still expecting $70M shortfall

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“Layoffs are on the table” as Jersey City begins to review their roughly $612 million budget, still expecting a roughly $70 million financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We’re taking as many steps as possible to get to a place where tax increase is minimal, if any, just because we know the struggles that people are having with their personal budget in their homes and also it doesn’t help with the school taxes increasing and the county taxes increasing,” Fulop said in an interview last week.

“So we’re trying to be sensitive on our side with the dollars and the budget that we do control.”

Last week, at the city council’s marathon nine-hour meeting, the public had their first opportunity set aside specifically to speak on the administration’s $612 million spending plan.

The governing body took no formal action in the matter and are unlikely to vote on the final version of the budget until September, officials said.

While the mayor announced in January that the budget would come with no tax increase, that was before the current public health emergency had the city bracing for $50 million in lost revenue and another $20 million in unexpected expenses such as overtime costs.

Additionally, the board of education’s $736 million budget, which was already having significant funding woes prior to COVID-19, came with a 39 percent school tax levy hike, while the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a $725 million budget that comes with a near double digit tax increase of its own in Jersey City.

During a virtual meeting of the Journal Square Community Association last week, Fulop said he was anticipating “targeted and hopefully small-scale layoffs.”

Speaking with HCV last week, he declined to commit to a number of layoffs, but said that there are also several other options being discussed at this time.

“We’re having conversations with our unions right now about possible changes to contracts, we’re looking at cutting overtime where possible, we’re looking at reallocating staff: at the end of the day it’s a tough budget situation and we gotta make sure we’re not killing the taxpayers here,” the mayor explained.

“So, layoffs are on the table and we had that conversation [Wednesday] with our unions and we’ve said there are a bunch of different options in doing furloughs, layoffs, contractual changes, program cutting, and we’re exploring all that stuff.”

Sources said that at least a handful of employees had already been laid off since late June and a copy of one letter was obtained by HCV.

“In light of the negative impact on the municipal budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this letter is to officially notify you that for the reasons of economy and efficiency, you will be separated from your [municipal employment],” says a June 26th letter from the Jersey City Department of Human Resources.

In the neighboring city of Hoboken, 26 employees were let go in April, which the administration later characterized as 11 layoffs and 15 early retirements – which some employees said were “forced.”

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