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City Council Suggests Saving Clerical Staff Marked for Lay Offs, Considers Cuts to Library Hours

At a marathon meeting Wednesday night, more details about reductions to city expenses were revealed.

At a budget study session Wednesday night the Pacifica City Council gave staff more detailed direction on what cuts to make before July 1, some of which will be personnel.

At the end of the 4-hour meeting, there were some modifications to the first that department heads suggested to the council earlier this month after a revenue measure, , was voted down by Pacificans. As part of those modifications, the council suggested saving 1.5 full-time clerical employees it believes are essential and took a look at reducing the hours Pacifica's libraries are open.

City Manager Stephen Rhodes said that council had directed him to try to save a clerk position that’s shared between his office and human resources, which was originally set to be cut, and keep Elizabeth Claycomb, a management analyst in the Planning Department, at full-time rather than take her down to half-time as was originally proposed. Council also confirmed that staff should continue to consider contracting out city attorney services and laying off City Attorney Cecilia Quick, laying off one position in the finance department as well as cutting part-time hours and departmental expenses there.

 

If the city lays off City Attorney Quick, staff anticipates a savings of $40,070 in the first year (due to a severance package) and $208,317 every year following.

The council also indicated that it was fine with moving ahead with the cuts to the fire department—demoting one battalion chief to a captain, moving dispatch services to another agency with a chance that part of Pacifica’s dispatch staff could be hired on there and laying off two firefighters—and police—getting rid of one captain position. Rhodes said that it was planned that one of the captains would be hired on as the new police chief to replace retiring Chief Jim Saunders. 

Saunders also announced at the meeting that his department had identified another $51,760 in cuts it could make, bringing the department’s total to the amount prescribed by the city finance department--$634,519.

Councilwoman Sue Digre challenged North County Fire Authority Chief Ron Myers as to why the agency wasn’t attempting to cut back on battalion chief overtime by having fire captains fill in for them.

Myers said that an agreement had been made when the joint powers association was formed that a lower-ranking officer would never replace a battalion chief at any time.

“A battalion chief will do a battalion chief’s job,” Myers said. “I’ll not have an actor in their place.”

Digre said that she wanted details as to what savings were possible if captains began absorbing some of the battalion chiefs’ overtime, which can amount to large costs for Pacifica.

More details on where cuts could be made to the Public Works Department and the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department were announced.

In Public Works, savings will actually be “over realized”, meaning cuts will actually exceed the amount suggested by a formula used by the city’s finance department.

In total, $262,539 in expenditures would be eliminated from that department by cutting one equipment operator from the street sweeping program and moving four other employees there to Pacifica’s wastewater department, cutting the tree maintenance program and streetlight maintenance program, which would lay off four employees, and contracting those services out. 

In Parks, Beaches and Recreation, $33,060 would be cut but the department has identified nearly $35,000 in potential revenue gains, bringing the amount of savings to be found here to $68,059. A portion of the cuts in this department would be offset by the Roy Davies trust fund. 

For revenue, the department plans to implement transaction fees for class registration online and credit card fees for customers paying in person, extending the Senior Rummage Sale at the Community Center by half of a day, adding a $25 fee to Pacifica’s Leadership in Training program, which is currently free, increasing the swim team fee from $60 to $62 a month and increasing the cost of a pool party from $90 to $95 an hour.

For reductions, the department would cut its special events supplies budget by $1,000, eliminate part-time office relief hours for administration and the Homework Center (the Homework Center part-time hours would be reestablished using money from the Roy Davies fund), eliminate part-timer hours at the Community Center and adjust full-time staff hours to cover gaps, and cut part-time salaries for Adventure Camp and the Fairmont Summer Recreation Program, some of which would also be covered by the Roy Davies fund.

Part-time hours in the Seniors Meals Program and Meals on Wheels Program would also be cut, ending in an overall reduction in ’11-’12 hours for those programs. Part-time hours in the aquatics staff would be cut and part-time salaries in Special Community Recreations Services would be reduced. They would be supplemented with money from the Roy Davies fund.

The council was still hesitant to call any shots on non-departmental costs, but everything is on the table from funding for the to animal control, which the city contracts with the San Mateo County Humane Society.

There was thing added to that list Wednesday night, however: library hours.

Council is considering cutting hours at Pacifica’s two libraries, but by how much has yet to be decided.

Currently, the two libraries combined are open for 74 hours a week, 14 more than the standard 60 for which the county pays. Pacifica pays for the additional 14 hours a week at a cost of $75,000 annually and the county matches half of that in funding. 

The council could decide to cut any number of the hours it funds, but how those cuts will be distributed between the two libraries—4 hours at Sanchez and 10 at Sharp Park, for instance—would be solely up to the San Mateo County Library system.

As far as the Pacifica Resource Center, which provides food, housing and tax assistance, among other things, to hundreds of Pacificans annually, all of the $83,000 the city provides for its operations is on the table, although Councilwoman Mary Ann Nihart hinted that a $10,000 cut might be appropriate.

Resource center Director Anita Rees said she plans to make up any cuts with additional fund raising and grant money. She’s already brought in $20,000 this year.

The four members of the council that attended the study session--Councilman Pete DeJarnatt was absent--said all council  money should be nixed for an annual savings of about $31,000.

Todd Bray and Bernie Siffry, Pacifica residents, asked during the public comment segment of the meeting why every city employee couldn’t take a small percentage cut, such as 5 percent, to realize the reductions and prevent people from losing their jobs.

This, Nihart explained, would require opening negotiations with labor unions again.

Rhodes has indicated in the past he would be embarrassed to do so this soon after many .

And even if an across-the-board 5 percent cut were made to salaries, Nihart said, it would not amount to the $1.5 million in reductions the council wants to make.

By Rhodes’s calculations, the modifications to cuts the council suggested at Wednesday night’s meeting fall short of the initial goal of $1,535,720 in reductions by about $54,000. Cuts to non-departmental expenses could make up for that, however.

If the council’s changes are incorporated, the city would lay off approximately 18.2 full-time employees. It employees 170 full-time employees and 100 part-time employees, some of which are seasonal, said City Clerk Kathy O’Connell.

Staff will take the council’s input and make adjustments to its expenditure reduction plan before the next budget study session on May 11. 

These cuts are only be the beginning. After July 1, the Financing City Services Task Force will begin a 6-month process to identify another $2 million in cuts.

Todd Bray May 05, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Dear sweet innocent Anonymous Scotty, I can assume you are a public employee or public employee representative now to be sure. It is clear that our employees will see each other cast off rather than act collectively to save each others jobs. You win buddy! Yea!
Scotty May 05, 2011 at 04:13 PM
With things the way they are, I don't think anybody's going to be "winning" for a while. We'll weather this better if we try and look at things realistically, rather than tossing out unrealistic solutions that involve magic fairies and pixie dust.
Bruce Hotchkiss May 05, 2011 at 04:21 PM
What we need is a good diversion. Something along the lines of the outrage Maxine Gonzalves had when she tried to do something about all those surfer butts being exposed when they changed in the Linda Mar Beach parking lot. That ought to fix all our problems. Or maybe Council could spend a couple hundred thou on a bio-diesel refinery?
Todd Bray May 05, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Dear sweet innocent publicly funded anonymous Scotty, what would you consider a realistic option? Come on... I know you have it in you... you can be specific... yes you can.
Scotty May 05, 2011 at 04:31 PM
I just was.

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