[This story was updated from its original form after Mayor Ron Woodward returned a call with his comments.]
Six City of Fulton employees are ex-employees today. They were laid off last week as the city prepares its budget for 2011, the head of the union representing most city employees said.
CSEA local President Brace Tallents said the city notified employees last week that their job titles would be eliminated as of Dec. 1. “They called me in a week ago and said we’re going to have some layoffs,” Tallents said of his meeting with Mayor Ron Woodward and some city department heads. He said the news was a surprise.
Woodward said the city began to run a deficit in November that had to be covered.
“I had a choice to let the property owners (pay for the shortfall) or let the workers do it. I opted not to have the homeowners do it. I didn’t like doing it,” Woodward said.
He said the city’s health insurance costs exceeded the money available to pay for them, starting in November. The layoffs will cover some of the shortfall, but the rest will have to come out of the city’s fund balance, Woodward said.
Tallents said those people used their seniority rights to move down into positions with lower rank and lower pay. When the job bumping was done, six people at the bottom rung of the seniority ladder had lost their jobs.
Three of those positions are in the city Water and Sewer department. One is in the Traffic department. Two part-time employees lost their jobs, in the Recreation department and Assessor’s office.
Tallents said he was told that the cuts needed to be made in order for the 2011 city budget to be balanced. He said that the city could have saved as much money by cutting non-mandatory overtime and could have kept the manpower in its departments.
He said the city handled the layoffs according to its contract with the union, but wishes city officials had asked for money-saving ideas first.
Woodward said the union’s ideas won’t work because most overtime is mandatory — for snow plowing or fixing broken water lines — and because the city faces a large increase in its contribution to the state worker retirement fund that can only be moderated by having fewer employees.
Tallents believes the cuts will have a minimal effect on city services. “It does slow things up. It creates another cost,” he said. “The laborers (who were cut) are the ones who do the grunt work of the city. That work will end up a little bit slower.”
Woodward believes there will be no visible effect on city services. He says the remaining Water Department and Sewer Department employees are qualified to work jobs in either department, giving the city flexibility to handle problems that may arise in one or the other.