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Council approves layoffs for eight city employees

Positions eliminated to help make up $4 million budget shortfall over three years
By: Michelle Miller Journal News Editor
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Eight city employees will be cleaning out their desks this week after the Auburn City Council voted to eliminate their positions in an effort to make up a $4 million budget shortfall over the next three years.

The council voted 4-0 late Monday night to eliminate a total of 10 full-time positions, eight of which are currently staffed. The layoffs are effective Friday.

Bottom line is difficult times call for difficult decisions. This is the part of the job that's not very much fun, Mayor Keith Nesbitt said Tuesday. By the same token, we are charged by the citizens of Auburn to keep the house in order and this is what we have to do.

Cost reductions from eliminating staff will be $110,000 for the current fiscal year with $2.18 million in savings over the next three years.

But even that won't bring the city into the black ” around $1 million in general fund reserves will still have to be used over the next three years.

The city had planned on utilizing the reserves to survive tough economic times years ago ” but times turned out to be tougher than anticipated, said City Manager Bob Richardson.

What we didn't anticipate was the overall economic downturn and the state financial crisis occurring at the same time, he said. We can spend it and still have strong reserves at the end of three years, that's what putting reserves away is for.

Six employees are eligible for the CalPERS two-year additional service credit program, which means employees would collect retirement based on two more years of employment than they served. The program would cost $276,000 up front but save $640,000 annually if all employees participate.

Laid off staff will also receive one month's salary as a severance payment, which will cost the city $35,295.

The reorganization will also mean the airport manager position will be eliminated. Those duties will be reallocated to the City Manager's Office, Administrative Services and Public Works departments. Richardson said those three departments were already handling portions of the airport operations.

The (Administrative Services) department was handling finances and billing, public works was handling the capital program and the city manager was providing assistance in long-range planning, he said. All of those departments will just have to take one additional step forward in providing services.

A negative cash balance in the airport fund has meant city general fund money has been used to assure ongoing operations at the airport.

And with more than $450,000 in capital and maintenance projects in the works, the airport would siphon even more money out of the general fund.

To continue to develop the airport, the airport has to provide its own funding, Richardson said.

The layoffs come after Airport Manager Jerry Martin said he was escorted by police out of his office on March 14 and issued a letter stating he would be placed on administrative leave effective immediately.

Richardson has confirmed that Martin was escorted out of his office by an Auburn policeman and placed on leave, but said he couldn't discuss the issue further, saying it was a personnel matter.

Nesbitt said Auburn will face three really tight years, but he has confidence in the restructuring plan and the efforts of Richardson and Administrative Services Manager Andy Heath.

When asked about reduction in service levels as a result of the layoffs, Nesbitt said city operations would only get more efficient.

There's always concerns, but we've been assured the restructuring should take care of that, he said. Sometimes during restructuring, you find opportunities to gain efficiency. The staff that remains may have to work harder, but the citizens of Auburn will get their money's worth.

The city is also embarking on a $20 million plan to revitalize Lincoln Way and High Street between Downtown and Old Town Auburn. That $20 million price tag hasn't sat well with some citizens who wonder why Auburn can afford redevelopment while staffing must be cut.

Richardson said Tuesday that redevelopment funds cannot be used as a revenue source for the city's general fund or to pay city salaries.

Although it has an awkward appearance, what we can't do is utilize capital funds to augment ongoing expenses, Richardson said. We timed the expansion of the redevelopment area to coincide with this, so we would have a new source of capital funds to continue improvements to the city.

The Journal's Michelle Miller can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com.

City of Auburn positions to be eiliminated

Airport Manager $103,268
Administrative Assistant - part time, City Manager's Office (vacant) $34,728
Custodian, Public Works, $61,739
Facilities Maintenance Worker, Public Works $70,960
Information Technology Manager, Administration Services (vacant) $110,713
Lead Custodian, Public Works, $63,922
Office Assistant, Community Development, $60,102
Office Assistant, Public Works, $53,301
Records Clerk - part time, Police (vacant) $30,110
Senior Accounting Technician, Administrative Services, $76,631
Senior Building Inspector, Community Development, $85,378