“I would say vote against it, and see what happens,” said Tom Fuscaldo, a city resident, during Tuesday’s city council meeting, expressing his displeasure at the city’s willingness to borrow $1,650,000 to pay retiring cops and firefighters.
Eight police officers and nine fire fighters will be retiring within this year, according to city documents. Bulk of the money $1,139,142.62 goes to retiring firefighters while police officers receive the rest: $487,538.00.
“We have an obligation to fund these items,” said Domenick Stampone, the city’s top lawyer. “So when someone says ‘don’t vote on it and see what happens’ that’s a truly irresponsible position to take.”
Fuscaldo wanted the city to vote down a resolution borrowing $1.65 million.
Stampone said the city cannot shirk on the terms it agreed on during the contract negotiations with both fire and police unions. “If the council is not happy with having to fund these types of contractual obligations, then at the bargaining table it should seek to reduce, minimize, and eliminate them,” Stampone said.
“You guys are putting your hands in my pocket every single year and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Rafael Fontana, a city resident. Fontana suggested the city file bankruptcy rather than pay the large sum of money.
The eight police officers retiring this year are: Richard Macchiarelli, captain, will cash out $120,507; Joseph Adamo, lieutenant, $97,084; patrolmen: Francis Belton, $80,310; Manny Avila, $70,918; Michael Ventrella, $70,918; Gary Destefano, $20,907; Jason Wester, $16,289; Kevin Neggia, $10,605.
The nine retiring firefighters are: Bruce Vander Voort, deputy chief, will cash in his sick and vacation days for $133,946; Michael Delmoro, a captain at the city’s fire department, will cash out $93, 758; Richard Hoffman, Sr., captain, $92, 969; Antonio Maldonado, captain, $92,969. Raymond Alex, $66,534; Paul Difalco, 66,534; Richard Gurlacz, $66,534; Tindaro Merlo, $66,534; Thomas Straube, $66,534.
Over the life of the loan, five years, the city will pay $141,900 in interest. “That $41,000 means one police officer we could have had,” said Rigo Rodriguez, council at-large, commenting on first year’s interest amount.
Rodriguez, who is running for mayor, said the problem lies in the way the city puts together its budget months after the start of the fiscal year. “We need to get a handle of the way we spend our dollars,” said Rodriguez. “We know how many people are going to retire this year, so why didn’t you put it in the budget?”
Charles Thomas, the city’s business administrator, said if the amount was put into the budget it would have further increased taxes. “The city of Paterson would not be able to sustain an additional $2 million payout on its own from its own coffers without having to increase municipal taxes,” said Thomas.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said he did not question the obligation that the city must pay retiring police and firefighters, but that there was a lack of documentation showing when each hour was earned. When the council grilled police brasses over the issue, the department provided records that were recent without supporting papers to substantiate the hours. “They did not provide any verifying documents that show that these numbers were just,” said Morris.
Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman, Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, and Rodriguez voted against the resolution. Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, was not inside the chamber during the vote. “We can no longer afford this,” Morris said.