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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ionut Rusu

Atlantic City Fire Department members to have salaries reduced by state

Members of the Fire Department face another round of salary cuts as the state continues to cut spending in the resort.

Firefighters will see their salaries reduced 11.3 percent Dec. 10, according to union officials. The move comes two months after Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ruled the state could cut the department by 15 members, to 180, after Feb. 15.

After the ruling, the state warned further salary cuts were possible because the city only had enough money to fund the department through Nov. 30.

“While we have made considerable progress in stabilizing Atlantic City, significant work remains in restraining the city’s unsustainable finances,” said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Community Affairs Department. “Judge Mendez’s decision requiring 180 firefighters instead of the 148 the state and city believe is sufficient to maintain public safety in Atlantic City resulted in $3.8 million in additional costs.”

During the past couple of years, the size of the Fire Department has continued to drop. In January, the department had 225 members. Currently there are 195. Since 2010, the department has shrunk by 82 members.

During a valor awards ceremony Friday, Fire Chief Scott Evans said the year has been tough on the department.

The cuts and ongoing litigation have been a “distraction” to the firefighters, he said.

“It’s tough to keep the focus on your job,” he said. “What the guys have faced all year have been the toughest challenges.”

After years of financial mismanagement, the city’s municipal operations were taken over by Gov. Chris Christie and the state Department of Community Affairs, who appointed former U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa and his law firm in November 2016 to oversee the day-to-day functions.

“The state and city refuse to have taxpayers and other city stakeholders shoulder the burden of these costs caused by the fire union, thereby resulting in the salary reduction of firefighters, who are still highly compensated when compared to other city employees,” Ryan said. “Notably, the police have chosen to mediate and find compromise, and we encourage firefighters to do the same.”

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