Township Council Moves Forward With Layoff Plan

“When you call the police and no officer is available to respond, people could die. Brace yourselves – layoffs could cost lives.” ~ Tom Egan, a Lawrence Township resident and Robbinsville police officer.

Despite passionate statements offered by police union officials and township residents about how cuts in police staffing will endanger the safety of both officers and the general public, result in many crimes never being investigated and have an overall adverse effect on the quality of life in the township, members of Lawrence Township Council at their meeting yesterday evening (Tuesday, May 15) decided to move forward with a plan that would eliminate over a dozen township positions – including five in the police department – in an effort to plug a $2.27 million hole in the 2012 municipal budget.

The elimination of those jobs – done through a combination of layoffs, retirements and not filling currently vacant positions – will, together with about $92,500 in cuts to various township programs and services, save an estimated $906,600 during the remainder of 2012 and through 2013.

(Audio from the entire meeting can be found in the Patch media box to the right)

But even with the layoffs, the township will still need to find a way to save another $1.36 million going into 2013.

“When we start 2013, we’re not starting at zero. We’re starting at minus-$1,363,000,” Councilman Michael Powers said. “If $250,000 is a penny [on the municipal tax rate] we’re starting 2013 over 5 cents in the hole.”

“You’re right, councilman,” Township Manager Richard Krawczun answered. “Not only are you starting in the hole, but in the past we could have blended that over time – say, 2 cents this year, 3 cents another year. Now you’re locked in [by the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap]. That’s the major game-changer that we now confront.” 

A resolution to amend the 2012 municipal budget, by way of the layoffs and other cuts, will be unveiled at a special council meeting to be held at the municipal building at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, May 17. Another special meeting, at which a public hearing will be held and council members will vote on the amended budget, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23.

“On May 23, if the council was to adopt the amended resolution, that means we come back and we have to continue to chip away at this problem,” Krawczun said. “I don’t want this to be misconstrued or sound threatening, but this is the minimum staffing that we can eliminate at this time in order to begin addressing this problem. I don’t want anyone to think that [layoffs] will absolutely stop. We can’t guarantee that.”

Of the five police department positions to be eliminated, one is currently vacant because a recruit hired in March recently dropped out of the police academy. Another of those positions is currently filled by Deputy Police Chief Joseph Prettyman.

Prettyman advised township officials Tuesday that he plans to retire later this year, Township Manager Richard Krawczun announced last night. Krawczun said the deputy chief’s position would be officially eliminated following Prettyman’s retirement. He noted that the police captain’s position – which has been vacant since the retirement earlier this year of Mark Boyd – will not be filled but will remain an “authorized” position on paper should it be needed in the future.

The remaining three police positions will be eliminated by laying off the two patrol officers with the least seniority and another recruit hired in March who remains in the police academy.

Other layoffs included as part of the plan unveiled last night include a clerk from the tax collector’s office, a part-time public health nurse from the health department, a recreation coordinator from the recreation department and a part-time fire apparatus mechanic. An executive assistant for planning and redevelopment will be reduced from a full-time hours to part-time, while a park maintenance worker in the public works department who is resigning because he is moving away will not be replaced.

Two paid firefighter positions – needed because so few volunteer firefighters qualified to drive fire apparatus are available during the day during the work week – are being eliminated. Since early 2011, those two positions have been filled with per diem staff pending certification of the results of the most-recent state Civil Service exam. A vacant secretary’s position in the township manager’s office will be eliminated, and a vacant position in the buildings and grounds division of the public works department will not be filled at this time.

“The 2012 recommended budget that I brought forwarded to the council in January contained no layoffs. The council accepted that recommendation with no layoffs – not for a police officer, not for any other public employee, not a single layoff. As a matter of fact, I was criticized because I brought in one part-time plumbing inspector," Krawczun said as he began the discussion of the layoff plan. "Now, where does that leave us? Where that leaves us is we still have a $2.3 million problem. The [municipal tax increase] referendum was defeated. The alternative was a user fee for trash collection. There’s a lot of opposition to an implementation of that fee. This is not a choice any longer. This is the 2 percent cap live and in action.”

Krawczun acknowledged that the layoffs will change, in a significant way, how the township operates.

“I want to point out to council and to the public, there are going to be times that there will be municipal offices – if this plan is implemented – where you may arrive at town hall and the office is closed. And I don’t mean just the tax office, because there will be other offices affected by this. You will arrive at town hall and the office will be closed,” he said. “So if these [layoffs] go through, you’re going to have to make sure someone is going to be there prior to your arrival.”

Minimal staff cuts are being made at this time to public works, while no staff cuts are being made to the municipal court.

“We talk about snow removal. As we reduce the staff, two things are going to occur – that response is going to be less and it’s going to take longer…. There is a domino effect [to cutting public works staffing],” he explained. “Due to the red light camera program, the Lawrence Township Municipal Court is actually processing 25 percent of all traffic summonses in Mercer County, in the entire county, taking everyone else into consideration.”

To address the $1.36 million gap remaining following the layoffs, Krawczun said council in the near future will need to consider making a host of other changes, such as to the township’s brush collection schedule, the way recreational programs are offered and the way ambulance fees are assessed. Township-owned parcels obtained through foreclosures will also need to be sold off.

“Other options for consideration are alternatives for trash collection, whether it be a user fee or privatizing the service for subscription,” Krawczun said, though he pointed out that it is unclear at this time whether or not such changes to trash collection would be of any help. “As we have all seen this week, there is legislation pending that would require two things: one, if a user fee is instituted it gets applied to your 2 percent cap and, secondly, if you do transfer or eliminate a service, your cap base would be reduced. So there is a disincentive, in the proposed legislation, to minimize the operations of government because you’re going to be penalized if you privatize or eliminate a service.”

“I think that one point that hasn’t been made that’s important for folks to understand [is] some folks believe that if we’re able to find a way to get through these tough times, when times get better and money is better, we can add these services back. With the 2 percent cap, whatever is cut, will be cut. There will be no ability to re-grow what it is that we cut back,” Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis said.

“I think that’s important to think about as we look at these things,” she said. “No one wants to see anyone laid off. No one wants to see these cuts. We asked this question to the residents. The referendum was a resounding no. That leaves us with two options. It leaves us with the [trash] user fee which, if we listen to residents here, is also a resounding no. Or, drastic cuts which, if we listen to residents here, is also a resounding no. One of those no’s has to turn into a yes. And, unfortunately, as we move forward, that’s what we’re looking to do.”

Ironically, the layoff plan was unveiled after several township police officers and civilians received awards at the beginning of the council meeting for crime-solving and life-saving actions they performed within the last year.

The meeting’s public comment period also took place before any details of the layoff plan were revealed.

During that period of public participation, Lawrence Township Police Officer Andrew Lee, president of the Lawrence Township Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 209, pointed out to council that in the last two weeks two township police officers have been attacked while performing their jobs and township officers have responded to two armed robberies.

“I bring these situations to your attention because they are recent and involve officer safety.  I believe that with any type of decrease in manpower through layoffs or any other means will inevitably cause an officer getting hurt or possibly seriously injured or killed,” he said. “Let's face it we are the gateway to the City of Trenton.  The reason why you don't have an influx of crime – and when I say that I mean more than the 24 percent that has already increased according to the 2011 Lawrence Township crime statistics – is because of your police force. 

“A police department is not a business.  It is a public safety organization that our community relies on to protect their families and property,” Lee said. “Lawrence Township FOP Lodge 209 will oppose and take a strong stance against any layoffs that will negatively impact officer safety or create a risk to members of the community.  I implore you, Mayor and Council, to do the right thing and find other means than to put my fellow officers and this community's safety in jeopardy.”  

( to read Lee’s full statement to council)

“From a strictly financial standpoint, this township cannot afford to lay off any police officers. From May 1 through today, the Township of Lawrence has spent in excess of $18,000 in overtime to provide the minimum number of officers required to work the road and dispatchers to operate communications,” Lawrence Township Police Officer Andres Mejia, treasurer of Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 119, told council. “Since 2011, the Township of Lawrence has spent in excess of $160,000 in sergeant’s overtime as opposed to promoting a sergeant at a cost of $20,000. Laying off the junior-most police officers will result in the Township of Lawrence having wasted several hundred of thousands of dollars in training these officers.”

“During the crisis we’ve experience over the last three or four years, we’ve had to tighten our belts. But one thing we can ill-afford is to sacrifice [public safety],” George Kline, a retired Willingboro police lieutenant who currently serves as treasurer of the New Jersey State FOP Lodge, told council. “When I call 911, I expected my fire department, my police department, my EMS to arrive on time. If you cut, you’re not only hurting the officers, the firefighters, the EMTs, but every resident is affected by that. I hope you consider before you lay off any of your public servants.”

“If I call you and you’re unable to answer the phone, I can leave a message on your answering machine and wait for a return call. But when you call the police and no officer is available to respond, people could die. Brace yourselves – layoffs could cost lives,” council was told yesterday by Tom Egan, a Lawrence Township resident who is a police officer in Robbinsville and serves as president of the Robbinsville PBA.

“In Trenton, crime data comparing the first 15 weeks of 2011 with the first 15 weeks of 2012, post layoffs, show that overall crime is up 15.6 percent,” Egan continued. “When police officers are laid off, department priorities shift. Arrests and summonses decrease, with enforcement of quality-of-life crimes and traffic violations suffering the most as police focus their remaining resources on more serious offenses… The drop-off in arrests and enforcements will lead to long-term problems. Property values will plummet and crime will spiral out of control.”

Township resident Steve Amiott reminded council that one of the fundamental responsibilities of local government is to provide for public safety. “I don’t envy the position you are in, but you have to do something to not lay off police. You have to find more police officers,” he said. “When seconds count, the cops are minutes away. I need them to be seconds away.”

“I can’t make the impassioned plea that you hear for the police because we’re not seen in that light. But we are the ones who clean the roads, inspect all the restaurants, and also take care of all your recreation, your plowing, and cleaning up after hurricanes. We are at bare-bones minimum. We’ve had cuts for a long time,” Frank Herrick, the AFSCME union official who represents Lawrence Township’s white collar and blue collar staff, said to council.

“I saw a sheet going around here tonight that listed the salaries in this township of $68,000 on up. I don’t think there’s a single member of my union that makes anywhere near that kind of money. We only make in the 30s and 40s. The pensions that everybody talks about average $19,000 after 25 years,” Herrick said. “We’re not rich. We are the bottom of the barrel here. We live in this township and pay property taxes on salaries that half of the people in this room couldn’t live on. There are people making pensions more than our people working full-time. Cut them, lose them? These are the people you’re going to need. This is the only workforce that can respond in an emergency. As we keep cutting them, sooner or later there’s going to be a catastrophe, from the police on down to the guys who plow the roads.”


For Municipal Budget Background, See:

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David Smith May 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Why would people complain about the layoffs, trash fee, and less services? When they turned down the referendum that's what they voted for. It's not like they weren't informed about what would happen. You can't go and say no you can't have the money then complain when the town has to make cuts. People of New Jersey must be some of the most ignorant voters on the planet, Our Governor dropped all these issues on the townships by implementing the 2% cap and you don't even seem to realize all he did was pass the buck to the townships. If you want your services maintained you have to pay for them there is nothing new in this regard. Now if you want to talk about wasted money in our township at least we will be rid of the dead weight of the deputy police chief and his free car. Funny how he decided to retire two weeks after the federal lawsuit was filed by the police department. However, to the council no more perks to the members of the police force they can drive there own cars to and from work like the rest of us.
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Thank you Deputy Chief for retiring so we don't have to pay for you to drive 25 miles to and from work in a car and gas we pay for. We might even get lucky and save a bunch of money from the federal lawsuit filed against him and the other members of the police administration.
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 07:56 PM
@Chief they did take a pay freeze and had to pay more into their pensions. Don't let the facts get into your way of your banal and uneducated comments.
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I'm not sure screw the kids and the old people is the right way to go.
Stinki Garbaage May 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM
David, we're complaining because it took extortion to uncover what is apparent. That there is a 6 ring circus up there that is completely devoid of leadership.
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Some of us with kids think the recreation department is a necessity. However I do agree that K could stand to retire as well. How long is he going to hang onto that 180,000 dollar job anyway? By the time he is done with us we will be paying almost as much for his pension after he retires.
David Smith May 16, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I always hate to see real servants like on street police officers layoffs but we could have done a lot better at getting the top dogs making the big money retired. Do I think it will cause crime to go wild in the township, no because I know the men and women we have do a great job but it will make their jobs harder. Don't expect proactive actions to stop crime we will be lucky if the remainder of the police force can keep their fingers in the dam for us. Of course for those who read the finding last year about the police force will know they have been reactive and not proactive because of staffing. I guess the people of Lawrence are ready to set up neighborhood watches to keep the township safer as they seem to not be able to pay for it. That's okay volunteer work is good for the soul and who knows it may have an educational component.
Soccer Mom May 16, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I find it despicable that Dan Posluszny will not retire to save the young officers jobs. What kind of man who has well over the amount of years necessary to retire would allow a young family man or woman to lose their job because of his poor life planning and greed. The man has a Doctorate Degree, Executive Experience and a 25+ year work history. Honestly I would not want the label of allowing young workers to be laid off when I could retire and get a full pension. What kind of personal character is that? Not a good one. As much as the deputy chief has been attacked his personal sacrifice in retiring is very much appreciated I am sure by those officers who can continue to work and support their families. Dan Posluszny you are going to disgrace your name in staying and allowing young officers to lose their jobs. It's despicable.
Chief Wahoo May 16, 2012 at 09:31 PM
no one has mentioned one word about the $1.4 million shortfall that they didnt come close to filling.......whats going to happen with that.......LOL
Joe Friday May 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Wahoo, you finally posted something that makes sense! Excellent post! I cannot believe I just typed that.
larry May 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
What happened to the garbage fee? Was that just some BS scare tactic the council and manager tried? They need to go.
Overtaxed May 17, 2012 at 02:20 AM
I can't find any information about the most interesting question to many residents of Lawrence: by how much did the council decide to cut Krawczun's salary and benefits? Does anyone know?
DSXM May 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
"Waaaah, my taxes are too high, waaah. Fat man, please help me, waaaah." You're gonna get what you pay for. Lawrence will be renamed North Trenton. This is all thinks to Governor Christie and his merry band of morons.
Linda May 17, 2012 at 07:08 AM
They should have started with laying off the Twsp Manager, Richard Krawczun, because the way I see it he has not done his job! He was hired to manage and the only thing he managed to do was take us broke! He should get the axe and hire some new fresh blood at less than the $165,000.00 he currently makes! As far as police, that service is included in our taxes so why should that be an option? Start with the fat cats that have gotten so comfortable in their position that they feel they longer have to perform! That is what would happen in the private sector.
Linda May 17, 2012 at 07:19 AM
David I say good for Governor Christie as this is a teaching moment for all the cities and townships to learn how to manage their affairs better. The answer is no more tax increases! The spending by all State and Local governments is out of control and it is high time it is reined in! The Unions and the Public sector employees have been abusing the private sector with all their perks. Enough, and no more!
Ted May 17, 2012 at 11:50 AM
How about we get rid of " Council?". In the real world, if you mismanage a budget, you get held accountable for it... Stop spending and then blaming it on other things, and we won't need to make excuses for getting rid of peoples livelihoods.
Stinki Garbaage May 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Ted hits the nail on the head. As much as you may dislike the manager, he does what the council instructs him to do. We absolutely must vote all 5 of them out. Look how all 5 of them approve whatever the manager puts in front of them. If you vote to re-elect any of those 5 (especially Puliti), you're implicitly re-upping the manager. His contract is up in a few years. Stay strong. Council meeting tonight!
Jake May 17, 2012 at 05:18 PM
it's not screwing the kids or the old people...it's a luxury service, not a necessity. If parents are so concerned about having their kids play sports outside of school then they can organize it among themselves. It's not rocket science. The fields and open space will still be there, it just won't be the rec. department organizing these activities. I know people who work part-time for recreation who say let it go in times like this.
Jake May 17, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Grill Master: If you are paying 4 months of after-tax income to your just your property taxes alone than you are living WAY BEYOND your means and that's your fault, not the public employee's fault. I don't know...maybe you incorrrectly calculated, but your numbers seem off. If (by your numbers) a police officer making around 60k brings home approximately $1700 every two weeks then he would be living in a home with property taxes at $13,600 (1700 x 2 x 4 months). That my friend, in Lawrence Twp., would be a home in North Lawrence valued somewhere in the vicinity of 500k - 600k. Someone making 60k would not even qualify for a mortgage for a home like that. Bottom line...any credible financial planner and industry standards dictate that no more than 1/3 of your income should be going to TOTAL household expenses (taxes + mortgage + insurance + mortgage interest).
T Voice May 17, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Boy do I agree with that. We have too many police officers when four cop cars respond to a complaint about dogs barking.
Richard May 17, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Linda, You are absolutely CORRECT !!! These township employees have no idea what is going on in the real work world. They could never behave like that and, they wouldn't receive all these perks. If you don't perform you get fired. So, why doesn't this apply in the municipal workforce. Seems like the less you do the more you get rewarded.
Blueline May 17, 2012 at 08:13 PM
It still amazes me that through all of the tough goings on and givebacks that the manager wants and tough decisions that need to be made he still sleeps well knowing HE got a 5% raise this year. All the while, and in his own words, "WE SAY THIS COMING". If you saw this coming than how could you in good faith take that kind of raise when all other departments gave back, took zero's, or took minimal below cost of living increases. Facts are you are an ass. Another fact is that why did the manager start out at maximum pay when he took over for Guhl. Mr. Guhl worked many years to accrue his max salary which Krawzun stepped right into. Where else can you step into max salary with no experience in the job. Think about it people. Ask these questions at the meeting tonight.
josh hamilton May 17, 2012 at 11:09 PM
I must call upon all of my retired brother police officers to stand up and revolt against that coward Police Chief Posluzny. He is not a real man. I am very embarassed to admit this but I once worked with this yellow bellied coward. If this was the old days, we'd have taken you out and taught you a lesson. His family must be deeply embarrassed to call him Husband or Dad. I applaud all the officers who have filed the lawsuit because I was once treated like a second class citizen by Seabridge. Danny, its time to save face and walk out those doors because if not, you will be the most hated chief who ever put a star on your uniform. That's hard to do since Billy Seabridge was pretty bad.
BBM169 May 17, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Josh I'm not sure who you are, but you crossed the line. It is one thing to personally criticize the Chief or the job he has done. It is quite different to drag his wife and children into a public forum and to suggest they should think less of him or be embarrassed by him. You posted like a second class citizen and you too must be yellow-bellied for writing that under a disguise. My initials and number clearly identify me and I can often be found out back.
josh hamilton May 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I'm not going to get into it with you BBM169 Because I wore that blue uniform that you wear once upon a time. I don't have a clue who you are but to call me names is wrong. I am entitled to my opinion. I will agree to disagree with differing opinions with you. Take care and be safe..... Hopefully you will collect this sweet pension as long as me.
Sharp Shooter May 18, 2012 at 01:32 AM
My understanding is that the Deputy Chief can not retire until the charges against him are disposed of. The state won't release his pension until that is done.
Lawrence Larryville May 18, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I'm not in favor of just putting guys out to pasture because they make "too much" money. I think one can argue that the experience of such folks and the continuity they bring to communities often outweighs the burden of their salaries. That being said, if it was Chief Dan who insisted that Deputy Prettyman be hired, and Deputy Prettyman seems to have "figured out" a way to retire instead of becoming embroiled in a lawsuit he would likely lose, then shouldn't Chief Dan be doing the same thing? His association with Prettyman is an obvious indicator that he's part of the problem. I don't know many who can speak to his leadership skills or benevolent presence in the community. (You'd think he'd be a more compassionate, outgoing and friendly guy given his battles with cancer and position as a community leader, but all I ever see him doing is walking around with a scowl on his mug.) Given that, I don't think replacing him with a decently-paid (not over-paid) chief is such a bad idea. Besides, he can probably retire for a day, get a job in another line of law enforcement with the state and collect his pension twice (as is common with several law enforcement officials in the Christie cabinet). I can't say whether firing police officers is the right way to go, but I do think its not such a bad idea to "retire" ineffective leaders.
SHSB May 18, 2012 at 01:44 PM
If I'm not mistaken, the rec department holds activities for all ages--adult classes, kids' classes, and senior classes. Cutting Rec is not "screwing the kids and old people", as all ages are served by Rec. Both I and my children participate in Rec programs, but I recognize that these programs are a luxury and not a necessity, and most if not all of these types of programs can be found privately in Lawrence or close by. IMHO, someone who can drive the fire truck = necessity. Someone who can maintain and fix the fire truck = necessity. Senior yoga, rec baseball = not a necessity = luxury, and we should not be cutting necessities before we cut luxuries. As for the senior center: only seniors can take advantage of this taxpayer-funded resource. Police, fire, EMS are there for everyone regardless of age. I'd prefer keeping the services that benefit everyone in Lawrence over the ones that serve only a small slice of the population (the same slice, I might add, that is constantly complaining about paying their school taxes, but yet wants me to keep paying for the senior center and senior yoga and senior zumba).
SHSB May 18, 2012 at 01:55 PM
As someone who has lived in a nearby town where we had to contract privately for trash pickup, I can assure you that you don't want to have to do that. When I bought my house in 2004, trash pickup was $86 per quarter. Midco (now Republic Services) raised us 10% per year!! When my trash pickup bill hit $155 per quarter I called them and said no more. They rolled me back to $96 per quarter--still almost $400 per year!! Switch companies, you say? To who? Republic bought Midco. The only other company that was willing to come to my house was Central Jersey waste, and they were charging $75 per quarter--but only for the first year. After that they raised it to $115 per quarter. There is very little competition in trash pickup, and no guarantee that you will have any competition at all. For over 5 years only one company would contract with me because residential accounts weren't worth it to them--they wanted the big industrial accounts, and would only service a residence if it happened to be near an industrial customer. And there was no price control. Trust me, you will pay tons more if you have to privately contract, and the private companies have no accountability to you. They didn't pickup? Tough. What are you going to do about it? Not pay? Then who will pick up your trash next week? Been there, done that, don't ever want to do it again!!
Lisa Burke May 23, 2012 at 12:37 PM
My latest blog post continues the conversation on the proposed police layoffs ... http://lawrenceville.patch.com/blog_posts/seriously-8c7c38c4#comments_list


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