Retirements force town to borrow $1.5M


While Kearny’s municipal payroll is getting a bit lighter from a surge of retirements, the town is still paying on the other end.

Last Tuesday, the local governing body passed an ordinance authorizing a special emergency appropriation of $1.5 million to pay “contractually required severance obligations and liabilities.”

Those payments, which will be spread out over the next five years, are to satisfy terminal leave provisions specified in the town’s labor contracts with civilian and uniformed employees.

By town Finance Director Shuaib Firozvi’s reckoning, this year alone, Kearny lost 18 members of the Fire Department, 10 of the Police Department and three non-uniformed employees to retirement.

In each case, Firozvi explained, those departures trigger certain payments dictated by contractual arrangements between the town and the unions that bargain for those employees.

For example, under the contracts negotiated with the police rank and file (PBA) and superior officers (POSA), a retiring police officer or superior officer is entitled to “terminal pay” equal to one-quarter of his/ her current base salary, plus cash for any unused vacation time for the current year, plus any longevity pay owed for the balance of the current year.

In the case of retiring firefighters and/or fire superiors who are covered by FMBA and FSOA contracts, those retirees are due terminal pay, also equal to one-quarter of their current base pay, plus any unused vacation time.

And retiring civilian workers, covered by the Civil Service Association, Local 11, are guaranteed payments of any unused vacation time, plus accumulated unused sick time up to 120 days, and the balance of any longevity pay.

Firozvi said that this marks the fourth successive year that Kearny has been compelled to borrow to meet similar severance obligations: in 2014, it bonded $500,000 for 14 retirees; in 2013, $600,000 for 13 retirees; and in 2012, $1.1 million. (The number of retirees for 2012 was not readily available at press time.)

This wave of municipal retirements coincides with Gov. Chris Christie’s economic reforms, including mandating public employees to contribute to the cost of their health insurance coverage and placing limits on converting unused sick and/ or vacation days to cash.

In other business at last week’s meeting, the mayor and Town Council:

• Imposed a 10-day suspension of the sale of alcoholic beverages on the owners of Marisol Liquors, 32 Davis Ave., after a hearing on certain ABC-related charges against the business.

• Approved the consolidation of certain previously issued water utility bonds totaling $8,132,000 in principal amount and combination of certain previously issued general improvement bonds totaling $19,367,000 in principal amount in anticipation of locking in a lower interest rate over the long term. “We’re hoping for 4% or [less],” Firozvi said. “We expect to sell these new bonds by January.”

• Authorized the Fire Department to apply for $975,000 in federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) funding, for which a 10% local match is required, for a new aerial ladder truck. Fire Chief Steven Dyl said the new vehicle would replace a 25-year-old E1 truck now in service. The KFD is also seeking $220,000 for 70 sets of turnout gear (coats, bunker pants and boots) to replace 10-year-old gear and an additional $50,000 for new hose, nozzles and appliances. Both require 10% local matches.

• Ratified these appointments: John Donovan as provisional part-time fire prevention specialist at $28 an hour for 24.5 hours a week to fill a vacancy; Veronica Baron as full-time public safety tele-communicator at $28,534 a year; and Robert Charles as permanent part-time building inspector/ code enforcement officer (no salary specified).

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