Borough May Reduce Operations to Four Days Per Week
Under the cost-cutting proposal, the municipal building would operate with extended hours Monday through Thursday and be closed on Friday.
Borough administrators are fine-tuning an experimental plan that would put the municipal building and its employees on a four-day work schedule for much of the summer.
The plan, introduced at a recent council work session by borough manager Tom Metzler, would extend operating hours at the municipal building Monday through Thursday and keep the building closed on Friday for the 10-week period from June 28 through Sept. 5.
“Our goal is to eliminate overtime,” Metzler said. “It gives us an opportunity to see, by introducing flexible hours, how much overtime are we actually going to reduce.”
An employee who now works 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and then returns at night for a council meeting or municipal court date receives overtime for their evening work.
Metzler said he’d like to be able to implement flexible scheduling so that employees who have regular evening duties can start and end work later without accruing overtime.
“We have a lot of jobs in this borough that require work to be done on odd hours,” he said. “And there’s savings to be made by having people work those hours that we need them. You start seeing repetitive hours it makes sense to rework your schedules.”
Metzler said the four-day workweek represents a giveback to employees for their willingness to accept working a flexible schedule that should significantly reduce or eliminate their overtime.
“Take something, give something,” he said. “We are effectively asking our employees, once again, to give something up -- it’s called overtime. So this is a mutual effort. You be flexible with your hours, we’ll let you be home on Fridays during the summer.”
If the borough’s proposed flexible scheduling trial run is successful, Metzler said he would negotiate expanding flexible hours to all borough employees when he begins contract negotiations with his bargaining units in a couple months.
The ultimate goal, he said, would be to both effectively eliminate employee overtime through flexible scheduling and keep the municipal building open five days per week.
In the mean time, Metzler believes residents will benefit from the longer daily operating hours that the four-day workweek plan would introduce.
For one, residents won’t have to take time off work to conduct municipal business.
“Anybody that works ‘til 5 or 6 o’clock that needs to come down and pick up a police report, or file a building permit or go to the health department to register their dog, now has the opportunity do it after 5 o’clock,” assistant borough manager Jim Van Kruiningen said. “It opens the door for residents.”
The shorter workweek would also benefit employees, Metzler said.
Without a fully functioning air conditioning system in the municipal building – for two years the chiller has worked only intermittently and a fix is not expected for another few months – taking Fridays off during the dog days of summer should offer relief to overheated employees and increase productivity.
Studies have also shown that a shorter workweek reduces absenteeism, Metzler said.
The borough is still tweaking the municipal building’s extended hours, but it’s likely to open earlier and close later than the current 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. operation, so residents can conduct municipal business either before or after work.
Council members expressed lukewarm reactions to Metzler’s initial four-day workweek proposal, but said they would consider it dependent upon the estimated cost savings. He’ll be presenting a more refined plan to council at next Tuesday’s council work session and hopes to receive the go ahead to proceed with the plan.
The four-day workweek proposal will not affect the police department, which will continue as an around-the-clock operation, seven days per week, Metzler said.