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.