Atlantic City police union sues to block pay cuts, planned layoffs

 Atlantic City firefighters from Station 4,  Engine 4, Ladder 2, California Ave. prepare for duty. (Anthony Smedile for NewsWorks)

Atlantic City firefighters from Station 4, Engine 4, Ladder 2, California Ave. prepare for duty. (Anthony Smedile for NewsWorks)

The union representing the Atlantic City police department is suing the administration of Gov. Chris Christie over proposed cuts to the force, which included salary reductions and future layoffs.

The cost-cutting plan, which came four months into a state takeover of the financially-ailing resort, also included changes to overtime and a new health plan.

“We did our damndest, going through the last several months, to give as many concessions and take as many cuts as possible,” PBA Local 24 president Matt Rogers said of negotiations with the state. “Every time we got to a point where the state seemed to accept it, they would come back and ask for more. We just got tired of getting bullied.”

In a series of letters to local law enforcement, state officials said that cuts to the police department were necessary to help pull Atlantic City out of “financial distress.”

“It is essential for savings to be accomplished now because further delays will make it impossible to achieve a balanced budget without requiring greater sacrifices by Atlantic City taxpayers,” said Lisa Ryan, a spokesperson for the state Department of Community Affairs, which controls Atlantic City under the rules of the takeover.

“For months, we have sought reforms with the City’s police only to have the police union on Monday move away from reasonable and fair solutions to the City’s budget crisis,” said Ryan.

The announcement of cuts to the police department came weeks after cuts to the Atlantic City fire department were put on hold by a judge when the fire union sued. Those cuts are still on hold.

Last year Atlantic City had a $100 million budget hole and a growing pile of debt, after several casinos closed and the city’s tax base shrunk.

Since the state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances, the City has reached a tax settlement with the Borgata casino and saw its credit rating increase.

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