PATERSON, NJ - The April layoffs of 125 Paterson police officers had minimal impact on the 2011 budget crisis. The terminations, along with demotions of 34 sergeants and lieutenants, came far too late in the fiscal year to produce any saving to help avert the 29 percent tax increase that hammered city property owners.
The real benefit, officials promised, would come in the 2012 fiscal year, which started on July 1. Indeed, the layoffs will produce about $5.25 million in savings from the police budget, officials said.
But don't expect overall spending on police salaries to go down in 2012. The city's preliminary budget analysis indicates all the savings will wiped away by other factors involving the police department's payroll. They are:
  • $3.1 million to pay off the balance of police department retroactive paychecks, which are owed to officers from a settlement reached last winter.
  • $1.25 million to cover the cost of the annual pay raises for this year's budget.
  • an unspecified expense to cover the unemployment checks for the terminated police officers. From April 18 through June 30, the city - which is self-insured for unemployment - paid about $800,000 to police officers and civilians who lost their jobs. Over the course of a full year, that figure could rise to more than $3 million, with most of it going to laid-off cops, the numbers indicate.
  • an unspecified amount for the debt payment on a $4 million loan the city took out last spring to cover retirement packages for 17 police officers and 33 firefighters.
The numbers on police department salaries were included in a budget presentation made by City Finance Director Anthony Zambrano during the July 12 City Council meeting.

Officials did not discuss the police salaries that night, because most of their attention was focused on how big the August tax bills should be. That's a decision the city council will make on Tues., July 19, after Mayor Jeffrey Jones' finance staff presents various cost-cutting scenarios.
The city already has reached agreements with its civilian unions for 10 unpaid furlough days. Business Administrator Charles Thomas said he will seek the same concession from the unions representing Paterson's police officers and firefighters.
The city had hoped to rehire 25 of the terminated police officers under a federal grant waiver engineered by Rep. Bill Pascrell. But Paterson needs the state's approval to rehire the officers. Thomas said the city is preparing a financial analysis on the possibility of rehiring the cops.
But, he acknowledged, the potential loss of most of the $28.3 million in state transitional aid the city received last year dimmed its prospect for getting the state's approval on the rehirings.