By David Madden

ATLANTIC CITY (CBS) — A New Jersey appellate court has ruled state officials can make changes in the labor contract for Atlantic City’s firefighters in the name of economy while a lawsuit plays out over a plan to cut the size of the force by almost half.

The decision means those controlling the city’s finances under a takeover by the Christie Administration can slash salaries, cut benefits and revise work rules as early as a week from now.

Firefighters Local 198 President Bill Dilorenzo was not surprised.

“We knew the law was clear that said that when there was monetary decisions that you were in court over, the courts would generally allow the case to move forward and whatever party won at the end could be compensated,” Dilorenzo told KYW Newsradio.

But a lower court order that puts a hold on the layoff of more than 90 people from the 218 member department is still in place. Dilorenzo concedes that number has to come down, but going that low puts his members, and Atlantic City, at risk. He says talks with the state are progressing on that front.

“I think they’re starting to come around to realize that maybe the 125 number was too low,” he added. “I’m hopeful that we can come to a conclusion that’s good for both of us and I think we can.”

It’s thought the reductions that have been permitted to proceed will save Atlantic City about $14 million this year, according to state officials.