June 27, 2012

Employee Benefits Source of Apparent “Miscommunication”

What was reported last week as a difference of opinion between the Consolidation Commission (CC) and the Transition Task Force (TTF) about a proposed consolidated Princeton employee benefit package known as “paid time off” (PTO), is, said TTF chair Mark Freda on Friday, “perhaps” just a “miscommunication.”

Consolidation Commission members had expressed concern over what appeared to be the Task Force’s endorsement of the Personnel Subcommittee’s recommendation that non-union employees revert to PTO and be subject to fewer days off.

“The full TTF did not want to see a reduction in the total benefit to staff,” said Mr. Freda. “The TTF asked the two administrators to meet with the non-union staff of the two towns to get their feedback and suggestions around this topic of paid time off. The full Task Force was awaiting the recommendation from the staff and administrators to come back to them,” he added.

Referring to a joint Township-Borough meeting scheduled for June 26 (after press time), Township Administrator Kathryn Monzo confirmed that she and Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi would “present staff recommendations to the joint governing bodies on Tuesday evening.”

Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner reportedly said that he would not vote to support the PTO measure at the June 26 meeting. “We have to keep in mind that we’ve put our staff through a tremendous amount of stress this year, waiting to see what their benefits structure is going to look like, and having that still be incomplete is unacceptable,” he is quoted as saying.

Chairman Anton Lahnston was also planning to attend the Tuesday evening meeting to express the Commission’s concerns.

In other comments responding to issues raised by the Commission, Mr. Freda noted that he “wasn’t told before the[ir] meeting that this would be a topic on the CC agenda, and since I wasn’t there to hear the actual discussion, I can only provide comments based on some assumptions.

“There should be no immediate concern that any benefit will be reduced,” he added. “I would be surprised if the administrators and staff come back with a recommendation that they would feel harms them in any way.”

Another point of contention that is expected to come up on Tuesday night is whether or not a “blended” open space tax of 1.7 cents should be adopted by the new municipality. Borough residents currently pay an open space tax of one cent on every $100 of assessed property value, while Township residents pay two cents on the same assessment.

The consolidation plan was developed by the ten-member Commission, which consists of Township and Borough representatives, with assistance from the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), a nonprofit management consulting organization with expertise in government management and municipal consolidation processes. The Transition Task Force, which has been charged with implementing the plan, consists of 12 members: five voting members each from the Borough and Township, and one alternate each. The Task Force also includes both the Borough and Township administrators. CGR Vice President Joseph Stefko, who has been a point person for both the Consolidation Commission and the Task Force, was unable to publicly comment on the apparent misunderstanding about proposed benefits.