City To Send Out Layoff Notices - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

UPDATE: City To Send Out Layoff Notices; 116 Working Getting Pink Slips

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE: The City of Spokane will mail 116 layoff notices to employees today as part of ongoing work on the City's 2011 General Fund Budget. The City is working to close a $12 million shortfall for 2011.

The notices will go to employees whose positions are slated for elimination as well as those who likely would be demoted as a result of "bump-back" rights afforded by Civil Service rules.  The City anticipates that about 70 people would lose their jobs entirely if the reductions currently in the proposed budget are carried out. 

The City remains in discussions with employee bargaining units on wage and benefit changes that could save many jobs and City services. 

Without wage and benefit changes, Mayor Mary Verner will propose a budget that, among other things, includes a 9 percent across-the-board reduction that would eliminate about 120 positions from the City's General Fund departments, compared to the 2010 budget. About 50 of those positions are vacant, largely due to a hiring freeze the Mayor implemented early in the year.

Other layoffs and position eliminations still are possible since the Spokane Public Library and Parks and Recreation Department haven't completed their budgets yet.  Their independent citizen boards approve their budgets on slightly different schedules.

"This is a very sad day," says Mayor Mary Verner.  "We are telling many good employees, with families who rely on them, that they may not have a job at the end of the year.  The realities of this recession once again are clear and painful."

Layoff notices are going to employees in departments across the City, including:

  • 65 notices in the Police Department, including uniformed and civilian employees.
  • 23 notices in the Street Department.
  • 13 notices in the Fire Department.
  • 5 notices in the Building Services Department.
  • 2 notices in the Public Defender's Office.
  • 2 notices in the City Clerk's Office.
  • 2 notices in Code Enforcement.
  • 1 notice in Planning Services.
  • 1 notice in Probation Services.
  • 1 notice in the Legal Department.
  • 1 notice in the Mayor's Office.

 

These numbers include both those who are expected to lose their jobs as well as those who would likely receive demotions.  Most other City General Fund departments also face the loss of positions and reduced citizen services, but those positions currently are vacant. 

The City has planned a number of informational sessions for affected employees in the coming days to assist them with continuing health benefits, applying for unemployment, and starting their job searches.

Some laid-off employees may be able to find jobs elsewhere in the City.  The City's utility departments aren't suffering from the same financial problems as the General Fund.  The General Fund is the portion of the City's budget that pays for basic government services, including Police, Fire, Streets, Parks, and Libraries.  Revenues primarily come from sales, property, and utility taxes.

The utility departments, meanwhile, pay for their operations through service charges paid for by customers.  The City operates water, wastewater, and solid waste utilities.

Mayor Verner has taken a balanced approach to developing the City's 2011 General Fund Budget.  That approach includes strategic budget cuts, participation by employees, use of reserves, and the addition of some revenue.  The remaining gap after these steps is being covered using across-the-board departmental reductions, which have the greatest impact on services.

The Mayor announced a list of painful strategic budget cuts last May totaling $1.3 million that include a nearly $500,000 cut to the library, deferring of vehicle replacement, and the elimination of subsidies for the Mental Health Court and domestic violence advocates, among others.

To help avoid layoffs and service reductions, the Mayor is asking City employees to give up pay raises for 2011 and agree to changes in their health plans.  Eliminating pay raises alone would save the City about $3 million. 

 

The Mayor already has frozen the pay of the few employees who are not represented by a bargaining unit for 2011, saving $200,000. With those wage and benefit changes, the City could revert to a budget proposal that included a 3 percent across-the-board reduction and 44 position eliminations, most of which are vacant.

Additionally, the Mayor is working with City Council to approve the use of reserves and the addition of about $1.25 million in new revenue. 

In its 2010 General Fund Budget, the City planned for a modest recovery over 2009, and initially, the City's tax collections tracked close to expectations.  Since April, the City has seen significant changes for the worse, primarily in sales tax collections.  Other revenues also have faced declines, including utility taxes, real estate excise tax, and interest income.

The General Fund is the portion of the City's budget that pays for basic government services, including Police, Fire, Streets, Parks, and Libraries.  Revenues primarily come from sales, property, and utility taxes.

There are still more opportunities for citizens to learn more about the City's 2011 budget.  Here's a list of budget informational sessions:

  • Budget Presentation at the Office of Neighborhood Services' Meet & Eat Event, Tuesday, Oct. 5, Northern Lights Brewery, 1003 E. Trent Avenue, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Budget Presentation at Comstock Neighborhood Meeting, Wednesday, Oct. 13, Sacajawea Middle School, 401 E. 33rd Ave., 7 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Budget Presentation at the Office of Neighborhood Services' Meet & Eat Event, Thursday, Oct. 14, South Side location to be determined, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

 

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