Hillside council members negotiate budget with employee representatives at special meeting

HILLSIDE, NJ — If the Hillside Township Council’s special meeting on Feb. 18 proved anything, it was that issues swept under the rug never stay there for long. Throughout the night, council members and employee representatives worked through their frustrations to find common ground on the subject of the emergency temporary appropriation budget.

Chief Financial Officer Glynn Jones and Township Business Administrator Hope Smith represented Hillside employees who they said weren’t getting paid.
Jones and Smith maintained that they needed $4,828,082.11 “to cover the payroll for the next three pay periods,” through the end of March. Council member Andrea Hyatt felt that the requested budget might have been excessively large.

“I understand your goal was to get to the amount that you’ve originally requested,” she told the representatives, “but our goal is to get to an amount that’s actually necessary. That’s going to require doing the work. It’s not a matter of trying to be problematic so much as it is, but let’s go through the budget process and do what we need to do. There’s been ample time.”

It was later discovered that certain documentation hadn’t been submitted to the council by Jones and Smith. The council members and employee representatives eventually agreed that Jones would prepare a draft budget for the council to review by next Friday, in time for the next meeting.
Toward the end of the meeting, Hyatt expressed her displeasure at how the matter had been handled.

“I am doing this for the employees,” she told the representatives. “But this will be the last time. Don’t send me anything else. Don’t give me anything else without the information that I’ve requested and expect my vote. So, I will vote for this so the employees can get paid, but I will not vote on another budget without all of the information that I’ve requested, and I want that duly noted, so that we’re all clear on what my position is.”

All council members voted “yes” and approved the budget of $4,828,082.11.
“There’s a lot more work that we need to do,” Hyatt told LocalSource after the meeting. “I don’t think it’s an easy process.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the municipality to just take a percentage of the prior year’s budget, while that is what the law says we are allowed to do. We’re allowed to do that as a ceiling. We’re not obligated to use that percentage amount.

“I think it would be in the best interest of the municipality if we take the time to do the work, because embedded in that number is a tax increase, and we are not suggesting that we want to increase the taxes on our constituents by that number or any other number, so we need to do the work.”