Financial troubles in Camden continue. Despite pleas from local residents, one of the most crime-riddled cities in the United States is about to lay off about half of its public safety forces.
Camden City Council approved the layoff proposal unanimously on Thursday in spite of angry arguments from workers and residents to find a way to save the jobs.
Camden has a small tax base and relies on the state for most of its funding. Meanwhile, New Jersey's budget cuts have gone statewide.
An Associated Press report from NBC New York said the layoffs are to be effective Jan. 18. The state Civil Service Commission has already approved them.
Union leaders have met with city officials to iron out possible concessions in an attempt to save as many of the 383 targeted positions as possible.
Fire Officers Union President Al Ashley noted 67 firefighters stand to lose their jobs under the current layoff plan. That translates to a safety issue for his staff and the public.
Some blamed council and Mayor Dana Redd for the situation. Others criticized six bargaining units they believe could make concessions to reduce the 383 layoffs called for to close a $26.5-million budget gap.
And others were pointing to Gov. Chris Christie for not fully funding the troubled town.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak mentioned that out of nine New Jersey municipalities granted transitional aid, Camden received the largest portion of $159 million in available funding.
"All governments — municipal, school districts, county and state — are having to make do and do better with what they have."
The union Camden Council 10 President Karl Walko heads represents non-uniformed employees from public works employees to clerks and typists. The mantra of "doing more with less" is something Council 10 employees have been doing already, Walko says.
According to philly.com, Walko said 40 percent of the police dispatch unit would be dismissed along with 42 percent of the clerical staff in the courts. He said 25 of the city's 40 laborers would be let go, a loss he said could paralyze the city in a snowstorm.
Despite the state contributing $69 million in aid to Camden — $15 million above what it budgeted — according to the Courier Post, Walko says the layoff plan is "an abandonment of the city and its residents by the state of New Jersey."
Ken Chambers, president of the union that represents Camden's everyday firefighters, said concessions like the ones made already by Council 10 aren't feasible for police and firefighters.
Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd and John Williamson, head of the police officers' union, said in a joint phone call that talks between the city and public safety unions were continuing.
The sides plan to meet over the next several weeks to discuss concessions that would save public-safety jobs in what was recently rated the second-most-dangerous city in the United States, according to the mayor and Williamson.