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Will city of Lodi escape layoffs?

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Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 10:00 pm

There is a possibility the city of Lodi could get through the budgeting process with only one layoff, depending on union discussions and Lodi City Council decisions.

As crafted now, the budget only eliminates the city's senior planner position because the planner's work load will be streamlined with other positions in the Community Development department, Deputy City Manager Jordan Ayers said at a Monday Budget and Finance Committee meeting. The new city budget for fiscal year 2009-10 will start July 1.

The planner is eligible for a two-year service credit on his retirement, which is something the city has offered to some workers as an incentive to retire, City Manager Blair King said.

The city also might have to lay off a building inspector, depending on whether the council decides to keep the fire inspector's job in the fire department or move it to the community development department.

The inspector, who is retiring, checks new buildings for fire code compliance, and King has suggested that community development take over the job. If the department does not take over the fire inspector's tasks, there will not be enough work for the three current building inspectors, so one will have to be laid off.

The layoff list could also grow depending on whether bargaining groups are willing to accept concessions, Ayers said.

The council has directed the city to cut each department proportionally to how much money it draws from the current budget. City staff has met with each bargaining group and asked it to cut personnel costs by a certain amount, whether it is through pay reductions, furloughs, eliminating city contributions to retirement funds or other ways.

Budget at a glance

Lodi's Budget and Finance Committee discussed the city's budget Monday night. The budget will be for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1. Here are some of the budget highlights:
  • The General Fund, which pays for most city services including police, fire, the library and animal shelter, is estimated to be down 5.6 percent, which is a $2.4 million decrease. When coupled with the 2007-08 drop in revenue, it is down $5.8 million in two years.
  • Only one layoff is listed in the budget. It is for the senior planner position, because the planner's workload will be streamlined with other positions in the community development department.
  • Seven employees have accepted a two-year service credit on their retirement, saving the city $800,000.
  • Through a variety of ways, the city will have 35 fewer positions next year, leaving 427 city employees.

    - News-Sentinel Staff

If the unions do not agree to what the city has suggested or come up with another way to cut expenses, Ayers said, the city will first consider making deeper cuts in services and supplies, and then consider layoffs.

"We have built a budget with assumptions about our labor unions," Ayers said. "If those assumptions do not come to fruition, there will be consequences, most likely layoffs."

Commission member Bob Takeuchi wondered if the city should be more conservative with expenses and consider more layoffs now.

"Are we biting the bullet at this stage and making the big cuts? … To me it's better to cut personnel in an organized way than at the last minute," Takeuchi said.

It is important to not be too optimistic and have a budget that does not have enough money for operations, Ayers said. But the city also does not want to be too conservative and add to its reserves, because that makes it hard to ask unions to make sacrifices.

Also, once positions are eliminated, Interim Parks and Recreation Director Jim Rodems said it takes more time to fill them once the economy improves.

"Once these positions are gone, they're gone," Rodems said. "We are trying to find every way we can to keep staff in place and ride this storm. If we get any thinner, we are going to have problems down the road, even when times get better," he said.

The city has 35 staff positions that existed this year that will not be funded next fiscal year, Blair said. Seven of those are employees who took advantage of the retirement incentive, which will save the city $800,000.

One of the city's unions has described getting a layoff notice as "death certificate," Ayers said.

"We would prefer not to put people on the street … If you get laid off, where are you going to get a job?" he said.

If it comes down to layoffs, commission member Keith Vargem said the city should start with department heads because they have the highest salaries. He owns his own business and said he has continued paying his employees for the past six months without taking a paycheck for himself.

"It's the little guys who do all the work, and everyone else does the planning … It's the employees who work for this city that make the money for the city," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blog/citybuzz.

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1 comment:

  • posted at 4:30 pm on Tue, May 12, 2009.

    Posts:

    Once again, the employees are going to have to give...which is not a problem if the Council didn't continue to spend. Fireworks??? "it is already in the budget"...but the check hasn't been written....how about the Grape Bowl $2 mil? Please remember this at the next election.....We need to replace as many as possible.

     

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