Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd said Thursday that she plans to use $4 million of a state payment for the South Jersey Port Corp. to reduce layoffs of police officers and firefighters - but the city has been waiting more than six months for the money.
The payment was promised in April to balance the last fiscal year's budget. Its delay apparently contributed to the deficit that could result in layoffs of a third of Camden's fire department and half of its police force.
Early this year, Gov. Christie revised his plan to cancel an $8 million payment that Camden was contractually owed by the port, a quasistate agency. The city would get half the amount in the form of "supplemental state aid," Christie said.
State officials said at the time that Redd had shown a commitment to fiscal prudence, and praised her administration for diligence. Camden had earned a reward, they said.
Camden is still waiting.
The city never got the money, according to Glynn Jones, Camden's chief financial officer. "I've been told the four [million] is coming," he said Thursday afternoon.
Money was funneled from the treasury to the South Jersey Port Corp., "which was delayed in getting it out," Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, said Thursday night.
The port occupies 285 acres tax-free on Camden's waterfront and does not pay other fees for city services.
The delinquent payment meant the city carried a $4 million deficit into the fiscal year that began in July. It also meant Camden was forced to begin planning for 383 layoffs.
In a statement Thursday, Redd sounded as though the money were already in the city's coffers, saying it would go toward reducing layoffs of public-safety employees.
According to the formula city officials have used in negotiations with the police and fire unions, $4 million would save 58 of the 247 police and fire positions slated to be cut.
It is unclear whether Camden will get another $4 million for the port in the current fiscal year. If it had received $8 million during each fiscal year, as it originally expected, most of the public-safety layoffs could be avoided.
"I am extremely grateful for all the assistance the governor and [Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori] Grifa has provided my administration and the city of Camden," Redd said in her statement.
"Though the city is faced with many financial obstacles, my administration is doing everything in our power to maintain public safety and save jobs," Redd said in her statement.