City looks to tighten belt with furloughs
Senior Staff Writer
Grass Valley city workers are being asked to consider furloughs and shorter work weeks to help balance the city’s 2008-09 budget, which remains about $200,000 in the red.
“A lot of employee (bargaining) groups stepped up and said ‘we’re willing to do something,'” City Administrator Dan Holler said.
Paperwork has just been sent out on the plans to reduce hours and payroll, and it is too soon to know how many people might take advantage of it, he added.
The city is looking to save $50,000 to cut into the deficit. “The goal is to get that to zero in the next six months,” Holler said.
In the last month, city managers and firefighters agreed to align with the City Council’s final budget to take a slight decrease for the year in their cost-of-living raises. That and the recent change to interim, part-time Fire Chief Tony Clarabut from full-timer Jim Marquis saved the city about $45,000, Holler said.
Eight city department heads have agreed to take a 2 percent raise this year instead of a 3.7 percent raise agreed to earlier, Holler said. One dozen firefighters agreed to take a 1.5 percent increase instead of 2 percent raise.
In addition, police officers and dispatchers have switched to a different work schedule designed to reduce hours and avoid overtime, for a savings of $100,000.
All the savings were applied to cut $1.5 million from the city’s budget, a victim of increasing costs and slowing growth in tax revenue.
In 2007, city employees received an 11 percent cost-of-living increase spread over 4 years, some hikes retroactive to 2006 and some starting this year.
The voluntary furloughs and reduced work-week hours are flexible, with people looking at taking hours, partial days and full days off in lieu of pay in all departments, Holler said.
“For instance, in July, I’ll have a vacation and I’ll take one of those days unpaid,” Holler said. “People can take whatever they want. We’ll work with them.”
To meet the balanced budget goal, city officials will look hard at filling positions that become vacant during the year, Holler said. Cost cuts also will come wherever they can be found, Holler said.
“Can we close the counter an hour early?” Holler asked rhetorically. “We also have to ask if we can really reduce the services. It’s a tough process.”
The struggle may get tougher. While most tax revenues remain solid, sales tax dropped off in the first quarter, not a good sign for a city looking to balance its budget, Holler said.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4237.
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