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September 23, 2018

Fulton Lays Off 6 Workers to Make 2011 Budget


[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.

3 Responses “Fulton Lays Off 6 Workers to Make 2011 Budget”

  1. December 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    According to the 2009 population chart, the City of Fulton had approx. 11,147 residents, 5,300 housing units @2.4% average household. Now every housing unit pays a water bill every quarter. I don’t see why the city can not add $25.00 to each water bill per quarter. That would amount to an approx. of $530,000.00 extra income per year.

    They also need to look at the amount of overtime each department given and if and why they are going over that budget and not just saying “Okay you need more OT, not a problem. Are we not being investigated for “Retirement Padding” by NYS? We need the start at the top and do or jobs the correct way, instead of giving every department head the okay to do as they please!

    I really feel sorry for the employees that have got bumped from their positions and others who have got laid off, when this all could have been avoided well ahead of time. From the article the city did not have enough money for health insurance costs for next year. Shouldn’t this been noticed last year when he new health premiums went into effect. Someone is not figuring the yearly buget correctly and allowing too much spending other than that figured in the buget.

  2. Dave Bullard
    December 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Melvin:

    The health costs include unplanned costs for employees who get sick and go out on long-term disability or who are injured on or off the job and are out for extended periods. Woodward said the city had an unusually high amount of that kind of cost this past year. That kind of expense is unpredictable.

    As for OT, the investigation is not about the amount of overtime, it’s about who got the overtime — whether OT was being given primarily to people very close to retirement in order to increase their pensions. The fire department has a lot of OT, due in part to their work schedule. When a firefighter calls in sick, he must be replaced because the contract with the city calls for a minimum of 8 firefighters on duty at all times. But a firefighter’s “work day” is 24 hours, not 8. So there’s 24 hours of OT for every sick day, bereavement day, comp day or injury. And then there’s the OT that’s attributable to unpredictable things like a large fire that requires extra help. Police have lots of OT too, but a goodly chunk of that OT is paid for by grant funds to allow for things like DWI checkpoints and underage alcohol sales stings. In the Water/Sewer/DPW departments, OT is not routine and is due to things like storms and water main breaks and heavy snowfalls.

    You make a good point about who approves OT and that’s likely to be one of the recommendations in whatever the Attorney General’s investigation turns up.

    As for the water bill, this part didn’t make it into the article, but Woodward said that he didn’t want to raise water rates because it would put the few large industries we have left — Huhtamaki, Black Clawson and Birds Eye (which needs a lot of water) at greater risk of leaving. Birds Eye’s new owners had made noises about closing some facilities. Fulton has survived so far.

    Thanks for your comment and I hope some of this info is helpful,

    Dave

  3. ken
    December 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Add to the water bill, are you crazy. The city of Fulton has one of the highest water/sewer rates in uptate. And of course you are aware that we have the highest, I repeat THE HIGHEST tax rate in UPSTATE NEW YORK. Are you a tax payer in the city Melvin, I would doubt it.

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