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Garwood Council: Should Crossing Guards Receive Unemployment in the Summer?

At Tuesday night's meeting, councilmembers discussed alternatives to paying the benefit.

During the workshop portion of Tuesday night's meeting, Garwood councilmembers discussed alternatives to paying unemployment benefits for borough crossing guards.

Mayor Patricia Quattrocchi said the discussion originally came up at the March 5 budget meeting. Borough Administrator Christina Ariemma said that all 11 borough crossing guards collect unemployment pay in the months while school is out.

"We're paying $22,000 a year," Councilman Louis Petruzzelli told Patch. "They work 180 days a year and then collect a third of their annual pay in unemployment."

The crossing guards are hired as seasonal employees for the 180 days while school is in session and work about four hours a day. Under state law, even seasonal workers are entitled to unemployment benefits.

According to Garwood Police Chief Bruce Underhill, only nine of the 11 employees work most days and collect unemployment – the two other crossing guards serves as alternates. Crossing guards make about $13 per hour, according to Underhill. 

Councilmembers discussed several alternatives to paying the benefit, including outsourcing the process by using an outside company or hiring the guards full-time and distributing pay over the entire year (the way many teachers are paid), so they still receive a check during the summer months.

"It doesn't matter to me if you outsource them with same people or have them work 12 months," said Councilman Keith Sluka. "What matters to me is we don't pay them more for not working during the summer. When you outsource them, the companies usually do keep the current guards."

"It's scandalous to have crossing guards filing for unemployment when it's a seasonal job," said Councilman Jim Mathieu. "That's the kind of waste and abuse that drives people nuts."

Quattrocchi referred the matter to the Police Committee made up of Councilmembers Timothy Hak, Victor DeFillipo and Sara Todisco, to review and discuss with Police Chief Bruce Underhill. Underhill told Patch he would be opposed to outsourcing the jobs, but that the department will be looking into several options based on council's discussion.

Salvatore Venditto March 14, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Are you taking unemployment tax out of their pay, if so, YES
Dennis Clark March 14, 2012 at 07:12 PM
If they are paying into it, yes, they are entitled. councilman Petruzzelli is the pot calling the kettle black. He is drawing a stipend, and we are paying for his family's medical and dental. Councilman Mathieu is a disgrace, and an embarassment; he should resign.
Jim Mathieu March 14, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Hey Dennis, sorry you feel that way! Why don't you run for a Council seat? It would be a great opportunity for you to serve the Boro. Best, Jim
Dennis Clark March 15, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Yeah Jim, me too. I think, in my humble opinion, you crossed the line with your behavior. Maybe I will, I would welcome the opportunity and the challenge it presents. Regards, Dennis
Cheryl Pickett March 15, 2012 at 10:09 AM
I am not, nor have I ever been, a crossing guard. In fact I wouldn't want that job. They have to stand out in all kinds of weather, some corners are very dangerous and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility for the $13 per hour. To call them scandalous for doing the job they contracted for & then lawfully file to collect unemployment benefits which they pay into and are entitled to is in my opinion inappropriate. Please reconsider this statement and make the appropriate public apology. If the Garwood Council has an issue with seasonal UI benefits, that should be addressed with the State legislature.
sp1991 March 15, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I agree with you Cheryl, the councilman should appologize. They are only getting what they are allowed under the State Law. Why doesn't he contact the State Legislature and have them Address it. Second, I think Councilman Petruzzelli also has some nerve as he is deirving a benefit that is equal to or more expensive than the approx. $2,444 per guard. I do not hear Coucilman Matthieu calling that "scandulous".
sp1991 March 15, 2012 at 07:26 PM
If any one is interested there was a Unemployment Task Force Report issued February 25, 2011 http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/lwdhome/press/2011/UITaskForceReport2011.pdf An area they looked at was this specific issue and here is what they said: "the task force makes no recommendation on modifying school related earnings eligibility criteria at this time."
sp1991 March 15, 2012 at 07:33 PM
One more Link concerning Crossing Guards in NJ. This is more about what they do than their receiving unemployment benefits http://policy.rutgers.edu/vtc/bikeped/safe_routes_scoop/vol2_issue2/crossingrule1.html

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