EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A battle is brewing in New Jersey over a salary increase for police officers and firefighters.
A 2 percent cap on increases when contracts go to arbitration is set to expire this month.
Some groups say without the cap, property taxes could soar.
East Rutherford has 30 police officers to protect more than 9,000 residents. Their salaries, plus overtime, and pensions are 30 percent of the municipal budget — the officers want a raise.
“If they get 4 to 5 percent what do you think everybody else is going to want to get? It creates snowball effects,” Mayor James Casella said.
The New Jersey State Policeman’s Benevolent Association or NJPBA wants the 2 percent arbitration cap lifted.
“It’s an unfair limit on our ability to get paid,” Patrick Colligan said.
The mayor in East Rutherford said he would like to hire five more cops, but without a salary cap it’s just not possible.
Casella is also the president of the League of Municipalities — the group fears property taxes could skyrocket without stabilization, and that some services could be cut.
“We think the doomsday scenarios that league of municipalities is painting is quite frankly ridiculous,” he said. “We now pay 35 percent of our health care, which eats up the 2 percent raise.”
Democratic lawmakers in Trenton said they are waiting on Governor-Elect Phil Murphy to express an opinion before moving on.
“If he cares about property taxes then governor elect will put his support behind it. What his reasons are is conjecture. You can figure it out,” Casella said.
Murphy would not respond to inquiries on Tuesday, but during a debate back in October, CBS2 asked him if he would side with homeowners or police and fire. He said he was waiting to read an arbitration report coming out in December. The month is almost over, and so is the cap.
Governor Christie said he will sign lame duck legislation to extend the cap.