The City Council will have a lot to ponder at the next council meeting Dec. 13 based on the one that took place this past Tuesday.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council withdrew legislation requiring city employees to work a certain period of time for the city in order to receive lifetime health benefits. Also, the council put off voting on an ordinance to abolish the city’s Division of Public Works (DPW) and to have its duties taken over by the Jersey City Incinerator Authority (JCIA).
The lifetime health benefits issue, championed by City Councilman Steven Fulop, calls for a city law requiring municipal employees to work at least 25 years for the city before qualifying to receive health benefits. As it stands now, current city employees can combine their local experience with experience served in other governments to receive lifetime benefits from the city if the total is more than 25 years.
Four ordinances on the city’s health benefits policy were withdraw at Tuesday’s council meeting
The city’s Law Department announced on Monday that it needs more time to study the legislation.
Fulop was pressing the issue in order to save money. The city has a $70 million budget deficit and is facing the loss of more state aid. Also, he wanted to stop the practice of “tacking,” or adding years of service to other municipalities in order to qualify for Jersey City health benefits.
Some have debated whether time worked at the city’s autonomous agencies (like the JCIA and Municipal Utilities Authority) should count toward the time served. Both Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis and Assistant Corporation Counsel Joanne Monahan said they need more time to study if including the autonomous agencies is legally possible.
Meanwhile, the ordinance to fold the Division of Public Works was tabled at Tuesday’s meeting with little discussion by the council. City Council President Peter Brennan said Business Administrator Jack Kelly want to bring the council and other officials connected with the matter together for a future meeting before the council takes further action.
The issue is being pursued by Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Kelly as a way for the city to save $5 million. But some council members are debating its merits, as it would mean 80 layoffs. Council members also want to make sure higher-level positions are cut before lower-level workers are laid off.
The postponement gives some Public Works employees, who came to Tuesday’s meeting and stood in back of the council chambers, a faint hope that their division will be saved.
Santo Dellamonica, a 14-year employee as a parks supervisor, said “job security” is the main concern for him, even if he is retained by the JCIA after Public Works is abolished.
Dellamonica also is concerned that he will lose the civil service protection that he enjoys as a DPW worker if he becomes a JCIA employee.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.