UPDATE: Brigantine Golf Course & Public Safety Departments

Written by Brigantine Councilman, Tony Pullella: 

I would like to wish every one of our residents and visitors a happy, enjoyable and safe summer season, and a sincere thank you to all of our dedicated city employees who help keep Brigantine safe and clean! I also hope that all of our merchants have a prosperous and successful 2014 season.

I am writing to update you on two of our key budget issues, the golf course and public safety departments.

Links at Brigantine Golf Course

Currently, city council, through a golf course steering committee (of which I am a member), has retained the services of Matt Galvin of Morningstar Golf & Hospitality to prepare a “Request For Proposal” (RFP). The RFP process will assist the city in attracting golf course professionals to entertain leasing our golf course for a long-term lease agreement, potentially up to 24 years.

In exchange for a long-term lease agreement, the successful bidder would be obligated to invest a specific dollar amount (to be determined) for capital improvements to our golf course. City council, with the help of Mr. Galvin and the city solicitor, will draft a lease agreement that will protect the city.

The long-term goal is to avoid a repeat of sustaining losses incurred by the golf course utility that must be subsidized by the taxpayers.

When the golf course was purchased in 2002, the mayor and council stated that the purchase of the golf course would never cost the taxpayers a dime. This year, taxpayers had to subsidize the golf course by $765,000. The steering committee held its first meeting this past Monday to start the RFP process and should have a proposal within the next 60 days.

Two important notes on the golf course are that the city will always have control, and it will remain a golf course. The RFP will also provide a discount for residents.

Brigantine Public Safety Departments

The city recently had a special election regarding the position of public safety director, which had been in our salary ordinance since 1990. The outcome of the election was successful in eliminating the PSD position. Within the next two weeks, City Manager Jennifer Blumenthal will be making permanent appointments for chiefs in the Police, Fire and Beach Patrol departments.

The selection of competent, management thinking chiefs will strengthen the morale of these departments. Working in concert with the chiefs should enable the city manager to implement cost reductions in labor and benefits, which currently represent over 60 percent of the total municipal budget.

The 2009 recession has had a devastating effect locally, statewide and nationally. Public-sector pay scale and benefit packages must be adjusted to reflect the results of this past recession and the establishment of the new normal.

Taxpayers can no longer sustain the spiraling cost of public sector wages and benefits.

While I appreciate the hard work of our public-sector employees and the services they provide, it must reflect the economic times we all face. I, along with my fellow Democratic council members, are attempting cost-cutting measures to ensure a limit to tax increases. This can be accomplished by supporting our efforts to reduce the number of full-time city employees.

Our goals are to reduce the amount of full-time firefighters and police officers and augment these departments with certified part-time firefighters and Class 2 police officers. These part-time employees would work less than 30 hours weekly at a starting hourly rate of $15 (up to $20) with no benefits. The typical health care package for an employee with a family is approx. $28,000 and husband./wife $22,000-plus pension benefits. The incentive for the part-time employees would be as additional full-time workers retire, they would have the opportunity to be hired as full-time workers with benefits.

In addition to the above stated initiatives, other cost-cutting efforts need to be made through the collective bargaining process.

Union contracts must reflect reduced starting salaries, longer step increases and elimination of longevity pay.

We will continue to work diligently for you, the taxpayer and will update you on progress made. We are always available to hear your comments and concerns.

Thank you for your support.

Tony Pullella

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