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Tacoma: Latest budget slashing plan calls for 165 layoffs, mostly in police, fire jobs

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Nov. 18, 2011 at 11:37 am with No Comments »
November 18, 2011 12:37 pm

Tacoma’s Interim City Manager Rey Arellano now estimates 165 city employees will be laid off in a first-round of budget cuts aimed at trimming $23 million by year’s end.

And if city officials determine early next year that even more cuts are needed to close a general fund budget gap that could be as much as $31 million, another 65 workers would get pink slips.

The latest layoff figures – announced in letters sent from the city’s labor relations manager to eight different city employee bargaining units Thursday — appear the clearest direction to date about impacts to individual employees.

The letters break-down by bargaining unit the number of union employees facing layoffs. They include:

  • 52 rank-and file police jobs (Local 6)
  • 47 firefighter positions (IAFF Local 31)
  • 16.5 clerical, customer service, supervisors and court clerk jobs (IBEW Local 483)
  • 7 professional and technical jobs (PTE 17)
  • 6 information technology jobs (AFSCME Local 120)
  • 5 positions (Teamsters Local 117)
  • 4 police management positions
  • 1 fire management position

In addition, 26.5 non-union city positions face layoffs, 68 now vacant city positions will be eliminated and other nonunion employees and department heads face mandatory furlough days, wage freezes and/or pay cuts.

Under a second round of layoffs that could happen next year – should a worst-case budget $31 million budget shortfall forecast hold true – 44 more police positions and 37 more fire employees would be laid off.

“All of the non public safety departments are doing all of their cuts up front,” city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said Friday. “If we determine more cuts will need to be made, they’ll mostly come from police and fire.”

The city’s police and fire departments account for more than 60 percent of the city’s $399 million general fund budget, he noted.

Still missing from the latest figures are full details of exactly which city positions and employees are at risk of losing their jobs.

Those details won’t be dealt with until early December, when Arellano solidifies the city’s overall layoff numbers based on variables that could change before then – including voluntary retirements and other department cuts.

“This is all still preliminary,” McNair-Huff said. “A number of things are still at play here.”

Once those variables are known, McNair-Huff said, individual employees will be notified on Dec. 5 and 6 that their jobs are at risk. Actual layoffs would begin on Jan. 6, he said.

Arellano is set to deliver a detailed budget proposal to the council during a public workshop on Dec. 6.

Some city labor unions already have criticized the plan taking shape. In a news release sent Thursday evening, Terry Krause, president of the rank-and-file police officers’ union called on Arellano to reconsider proposed police layoffs.

“It is our opinion that this level of cuts will have a detrimental impact on the current level of public safety in the City of Tacoma,” Krause wrote. “The interim city manager has erred to making these cuts to public safety rather than in some other portion of the city budget, including access to reserve funds.”

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