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3-man firefighting crews concern unions in Hamilton

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HAMILTON — The township’s Fire District 4 recently reduced their career firefighting shifts to three firefighters, down from four, concerning the towns’s two fire unions.

Union officials say the manpower reductions seem to be budget related, and they’ve already agreed to made concessions to the district, from reducing overtime pay, holiday pay and uniform allowances to help the situation.

“Now, it doesn’t seem like there’s any money there,” fire officers union President Nick Buroczi said.

District 4 operates from the Hamilton Fire Co. firehouse on East State Street in Hamilton’s Bromley neighborhood. Career firefighters can respond in an engine, or a ladder truck, depending on the call, officials said.

On an engine, a three-person crew is common on career shifts, but three firefighters on a ladder truck is not ideal, and could violate the federal “2 in 2 out” requirement, depending on the situation.

The “2 in 2 out” rule calls for two fighters to remain outside of a burning structure while two are inside.

The unions – locals of the Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association – say they’ve been asking questions of the board of commissioners for weeks via email, and have yet to get a detailed answer.

They are also awaiting an request for budget materials requested under the state’s Open Public Records Act, or OPRA.

Out of frustration, several union officers went to District 4’s board of fire commissioner meeting last Thursday.

“We honestly still didn’t get any answers,” Buroczi said.

District 4 was one of three Hamilton fire district budgets that was voted down by voters, causing the commissioners to appear for the township council for modifications, which included trimming commissioner salaries.

Attempts to reach Betty Newbon, chair of the District 4 board of fire commissioners, were unsuccessful.

Buroczi said the apparent financial problems in District 4 are yet another reason why the township needs to move forward with consolidation of the town’s nine districts.

The township council has scheduled two special public meetings to discuss consolidation. The first is this Thursday, Nov. 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hamilton Free Public Library, 1 Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. Way. The second meeting is Nov. 29.

Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2016/11/3-man_firefighting_crews_have_unions_concerned_in.html

Audit Port Authority for pension scams — and, while we’re at it, New Jersey | Editorial

Port Authority Police PATCHWith all the pension scams in our state’s loophole-ridden system, even this we don’t allow: At the Port Authority, a bistate agency, employees are permitted to run up their lifetime pensions by heaping on overtime pay in their final years.
Think about what that means. New Jersey calculates pensions according to your last three years of total pay. So a Port Authority cop working at Newark airport could accrue overtime in his last few years on the job, and enormously inflate his lifetime benefits.

New Jersey state guidelines prohibit this sort of thing. But the New York pension guidelines that Port Authority falls under allow it, and our taxpayers get sent a bill.

State senator: Pension-padding 'scheme' at Port Authority requires audit

State senator: Pension-padding ‘scheme’ at Port Authority requires audit

Sen. Raymond Lesniak wants an outside accounting firm to probe the agency’s prodigious overtime costs.

A recent report showed the average Port Authority salary has surpassed $100,000 – a surge driven largely by overtime costs. You could as much as double your base pay by working overtime, as 72 Port Authority workers have done, and exponentially increase your pension.

Given the high financial stakes, Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) is right to call for an independent audit, to figure out if the bistate agency is systematically driving up pension costs by padding workers’ salaries with huge amounts of overtime in the years before retirement.

Whether or not this is “an intentional scheme to pad pensions” by divvying up overtime among those in their last years on the job, as he suspects, he’s certainly right about the impact. So why not do the audit, unless there’s something to hide?

These 25 Port Authority employees each earned more than $110K in overtime

These 25 Port Authority employees each earned more than $110K in overtime

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials have been trying to reduce overtime in recent years.

A 2011 audit by the New York Comptroller’s office warned that overtime at the Port Authority “flows like water,” and that because employees at the end of their careers are able to boost their salaries this way, their pensions are also inflated.

Port Authority officials say they have since taken steps to tamp down on abuse. But are they doing enough to ensure overtime is allowed on a rotating basis, rather than offered to a chosen few, who are just looking to boost their pensions? And why so much overtime in the first place?

It reminds us of the thousands of part-timers in New Jersey’s pension system, who briefly snag a full-time public job at the end of their careers and then retire with a princely pension — the councilwoman who makes $6,000 annually for 30 years, for example, and right before retirement, becomes a town administrator earning $180,000.

A pension is supposed to supplement your loss of income upon retirement. If your salary for decades was $10,000 from a part-time job, you shouldn’t have a $100,000-a-year pension.

Both parties are to blame for permitting this. The Legislature knows about the loophole, and allows it to continue. So yes, audit the overtime books for the Port Authority, as Lesniak demands.

But why not audit New Jersey’s public employee retirement system, and look for political patronage jobs that increase pensions by tens of thousands of dollars, too?MORE: Recent Star-Ledger editorials

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Christie blasts N.J. Democrats and unions, warns ‘animals are at the gate’

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CHERRY HILL — Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday assailed Democrats and warned the state’s business community that “the animals are at the gate” and are prepared to pounce on their wallets.

Boasting economic gains in the state under his administration, the Republican governor issued a stark warning for complacent residents he says will get “fleeced” by Democratic lawmakers he bemoaned only answer to public sector unions.

In a full-throttled verbal assault against his political rivals, Christie said higher taxes and drastic cuts to areas of the state’s budget that will negatively affect everyone in the state are on the horizon unless the business community and Garden State residents wake up and stay alert.

Gov. Chris Christie made headlines for the facial expressions he made standing behind Donald Trump. Now, it’s Mary Pat Christie.

“I am giving you a warning today,” Christie told about 200 people at the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey luncheon.

“You and I together have brought this state back to economic prosperity, but if we take our eye off the ball for one second they are going to fleece us again,” he said. “I’m telling ya, the animals are at the gate and their waiting to get your money and I’m the only one left at the gate saying no.”

New Jersey’s economy has perked up over the past year and a half, but for a long time lagged behind private sector job gains made in most states.

Christie accused members of the Democratic-controlled Legislature being “bought and paid for” by public sector unions.

“They are willing to sell their souls and pick your pocket,” Christie declared.

Specifically, he criticized Democrats for a proposed constitutional amendment requiring the state contribute each year to the pension plan for government workers.

He went on to joke that Democrats find new and inventive ways to tax people.

“You’ve got to wonder about the ingenuity of Democrats,” Christie said. “Like, you can’t make this crap up — you just can’t.”

Matt Arco may be reached at marco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewArco or on Facebook. Follow NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/04/christie_blasts_nj_democrats_warns_of_the_animals.html