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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.

Eddie Shore April 30, 2011 at 07:10 PM
When is the last time the city did NOT have a "structural deficit", even during the real estate boom? Mr. Olinger has it right, the city cannot continue to vote in the same fiscally irresponsible council and then complain about its services. Some have warned we were headed in this direction for many years, funny how the no-growth no-economy enviro-hippies have continually supported only higher taxes on the businesses and homeowners to barely get by. Chickens have come home to roost . . .
nebulous nelson April 30, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Are the citizens aware that they are going to outsource their police communication to an outside agency and have actually already advised their dispatch center of such, without even negotiated a contract with the outside agency?
PTP April 30, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Eddie: I visited Eureka Square yesterday for the first time in quite some time in hopes that inflation hadn't quite made its way to the grocery store anchored there. Well it has - in spades. But even more alarming than that was the number of commercial spaces for lease! Seemed like close to 75% were vacant. WOW! I guess tenants are becoming as hard to find as some of our missing council members...
PTP April 30, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Outsourcing police communications seems like a good idea to me. Perhaps India or China will give us a good discount. And as to the language barrier, who really needs to understand police calls anyway?
PTP May 01, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Pacifica Police Car #3: “Dispatch we have an officer down! I repeat, OFFICER DOWN!” Pacifica Police Dispatch New Delhi: “I apologize for any inconvenience you may have had. Just one moment… I am checking the duty roster and I do not see an Officer Down on patrol.” PPC #3: “No! I mean an officer has been shot and is down! I need a backup. NOW!” PPD ND: “It is always a good idea to take a backup before we attempt to fix your computer problem.” PPC #3: “This is not a computer problem! I repeat. NOT a computer problem! This is a police officer injured problem!” PPD ND: “Sorry, I got you confused with the guy on the other line. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience you may have had. First, I would like to ask you to turn the ignition of your police car to the “Off” position. Then turn it back to the “On” position. Is it starting?” PPC #3: “I give up…”
Lionel Emde May 01, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Most of the county cities and towns already go through the county for police dispatch. Fire also goes through the county. Word is that the six Pacifica dispatchers will perhaps be placed in the county dispatch force. It's not going to India, at least not yet.
Eddie Shore May 01, 2011 at 02:47 AM
The really scary thing isn't consolidating the police dispatch under the county . . . for 8 years Pacifica has seen it police force reduce by over 1/3 under the watchful eye of City Council and their no-growth supporters. Which begs the question . . . what next? Employees dwindle yet the budget continues to go up . . . with no revenue growth in site, we may join HMB as another needy step-child to the county . . .
concerned voter May 01, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Linda Mar beach might revert back to State management. Clearly Pacifica cannot afford to police it or keep it clean. Need volunteers to support or supplement most city services. Ironic to contemplate Vreeland, Dejarnatt or Digre making the motion to acknowledge they do not have the funds to maintain our signature beach...
Todd Bray May 01, 2011 at 03:00 PM
A correction or two Camden: The 5% figure during the study session was from Mary Ann not Berni nor me. Berni was referencing an earlier suggestion of scaled roll backs starting at 5% for folks earning fifty thousand or less and increasing one percentage point for every ten thousand dollars earned above that so an employee earning one hundred thousand would take a 10% cut, and at one hundred and fifty thousand the employee would take a 15% cut. For some reason Mary Ann has fixated on only a 5% cut choosing not to acknowledge the complete suggestion. My current suggestion is to first acknowledges the revenue pie is only so big and to scale everyones salaries to fit with in that pie. The idea being that salaries grow and shrink equally with revenues. Pacifica generates plenty of revenue but when virtually half the full time work force, 80 employees, earn over one hundred thousand a year there is virtually no way to close that revenue/compensation gap unless everyone takes a proportioned wage cut so that combined it all fits within the revenue pie. The so called structural deficit is due to employees from senior staff, department heads, fire and police being over compensated for their value.
Todd Bray May 01, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Using the suggestion from Berni the savings to the General Fund for the 80 employees that earn over 1ook a year would equal approximately nine hundred and sixty one thousand dollars a year.
Lionel Emde May 01, 2011 at 03:43 PM
I would add that non-salaried part-timers, many of whom work for P.B.&R., should take few if any cuts. Their wages are already a joke, they receive few if any benefits, and the public is already funding much of that department through fees paid to enroll in programs such as child care. This tiered salary cut should be just. It's bitter pill to swallow, but welcome to the real world!
Todd Bray May 01, 2011 at 03:51 PM
And if you add in the other 90 full time employees and use the conservative number of 5% that gives an addition savings of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars for a combined savings of approx. one point four million dollars a year. Senior staff may see the structural deficit as an unfunded salary issue but it really isn't. The issue is that salaries are way out of tune with the realities of the economic situation not just here but world wide.
Bhatman May 01, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Why do I suspect that someone from Texas is posting under a variety of different ID's? He's back in the saddle again.......
Scotty May 02, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Salary surveys are not unique to the public sector and are used in numerous industries to ensure that employees are rewarded commensurate with market rates. It is both naïve and incorrect to assume that employees will be satisfied with below-market compensation. There was recently an article (perhaps in the Chronicle?) that described how SFPD is already poaching the best officers in nearby communities, including Pacifica.
Lionel Emde May 03, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Pacifica police officers moving on to other jobs is an old story, one that far predates the present crisis. And, if you didn't notice, S.F. has a budget problem as well. Salary surveys in the public sector are a direct cause of the present municipal financial crisis. They are a joke in the face of what is happening.
Scotty May 03, 2011 at 03:24 PM
These are jobs, not volunteer positions. Why do you think that these people will accept under-market salaries? Just because you want them to? If they are overpaid relative to others, then we should address it, but clicking our heels and wishing is not a viable economic strategy.
Lionel Emde May 05, 2011 at 04:20 AM
I don't know what rarified work you do, but in the real world, people are taking pay cuts, and losing their jobs all the time. If city leaders and top staffers cannot come to grips with the situation and make the necessary pay cuts, then we truly have no future. "Economic strategy" means nothing in this situation. It's way too late for that, the crisis is upon us. BTW, the "economic stragetists" leading our town were reported in the Tribune to be planning another $500,000 blowing of the reserves on the payroll they cannot make. That leaves $900,000 left for any emergency. The city manager said we should have $6 million in reserve, but he forgot to say that the council, at his advising, blew all that out the door in the last three years on a payroll they can't afford. So Scotty,in your executive wisdom, what would a private firm do if someone did such things to a company's balance sheet?
Bruce Hotchkiss May 05, 2011 at 04:38 AM
I find it ironic that in sympathy with those that have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts Lionel advocates more pay cuts. I also find it ironic that just like the Wall St debacle that led to this economic crisis the ones who are going to be hurt are not the ones who perpetrated the problem in the first place. Yes the unions did what they always do, ask for more. But it was council that agreed to it. So let's punish the workers, just like homeowners were punished for the banks over-reaching. One of the flaws in the argument that workers are paid "too" much is that there has been no corresponding call for price reductions and controls. There is a problem but it needs a global solution not just an attack on the workers. Oh yeah Lionel, what would a private firm do? Send all the jobs off-shore and then give the CEO a huge bonus.
Lionel Emde May 05, 2011 at 02:33 PM
Bruce, So dude, try reading for content. I have always placed the blame squarely where it belongs - with our elected officials. There's crisis management going on big time right now, but why didn't councilmembers defend the city reserves at all costs, and start sounding the alarm three years ago? They largely do as staff tells them to do, and look where it's landed us.
Bruce Hotchkiss May 05, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Lionel I know you have been a fierce critic of council when they deserved it. And yes council has followed staff like sheep. We call our elected officials "leaders" but they are far from it; they never lead, they follow staff and their supporters often at the detriment of the rest of us. Council, and they are not alone in this statewide or nationally, has done nothing to halt the abuses of a few employees, which in my opinion encourages every employee to always seek more. (How do you think an average worker reacts when they are asked to cut their pay yet councilors who don't need benefits continue to take their menu money?) I just have a problem when the average worker is punished (by having his/her income reduced) for the transgressions of the bosses. I am not disputing that the coffers are empty and I'll be the first to admit I don't have the answers.
Todd Bray May 05, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Bruce, Lionel is 100% correct. I'm beginning to see this phenomenon as an elected official version of Stockholm Syndrome.
Todd Bray May 05, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Bruce, I agree with you. Public workers shouldn't get boned because of the mistakes of their bosses. However one of the biggest mistakes has been wage and benefit packages that are not scaled to revenues so these deficits continue. If the contracts were scaled to the revenue so visually they looked like a dart board with it's inner and outer rings, as revenues increase so do wages and vis a versa as revenues decline. And again the situation we are all in is not the fault of public workers, but senior staff and elected officials, state wide.
Bruce Hotchkiss May 05, 2011 at 03:09 PM
100% right about what? I have no idea which response thread you are referencing.
Bruce Hotchkiss May 05, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I'd like to direct your attention to an article that shows how my current home town worked with the police union. http://www.lvrj.com/news/north-las-vegas-firefighters-ok-concessions-121295374.html
Scotty May 05, 2011 at 03:27 PM
I know that Todd would like to establish his People's Republic of Pacifica, where everyone joins hands, sings "Kumbaya", and takes pay cuts, but I don't think that's realistic. For one thing, it seems like they've already done about as much of that as they can in the last contract go-rounds. There needs to be systemic changes, and until there are, the only thing I can see for the city to do is layoff some people. Lionel can try to paint salary surveys as some kind of boogie monster, but if we aren't paying market rates, the best people will drive over the hill and get paid what the market thinks they're worth. If we don't choose who gets cut, in the end we'll still be left with a downsized workforce --- we'll just have the worst people instead of the best.
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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