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Tacoma: 167 city workers being notified of layoffs today

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Dec. 5, 2011 at 11:31 am |
December 5, 2011 4:53 pm

City of Tacoma department heads will be notifying 167 city workers today that their jobs are officially at risk due to $23 million of  budget cuts expected by year’s end.

“What’s happening is that those employees whose positions are being identified as potential layoffs are getting notified in one on one meetings with either their supervisor or their department director,” city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff told me this morning. “…Those meeting are happening throughout the day today.”

The latest layoff estimates — 166.7 positions in all — include 47 fire department employees and 48 police employees, McNair-Huff said.

If the overall number of layoffs sound higher today than in recent estimates, it is.  The last estimate floated by the city had 165 employees losing jobs (The number of police positions is down from 52 in that estimate, to 48 today, however).

The previous estimate actually was made before the city announced it would take retirement buy-outs, and the city council tentatively agreed to consider at least $1.3 million in “revenue enhancements.” Both measures were expected to help reduce the number of overall layoffs.

So what gives?

“Today’s numbers are the best estimates we have up to the minute,” McNair-Huff said. “These numbers are not as concrete as we’d like, but there are a lot of mitigating factors still going on, which makes it difficult to say with certainty.”

And the numbers still could change, McNair-Huff added –  right up to Tuesday’s unveiling of interim City Manager Rey Arellano‘s detailed budget plan.

Arellano and his department heads are expected to reveal the full details of the proposed budget cuts to the council tomorrow during its noon study session. Later, at the council’s regular meeting at 5 p.m., citizens will have a chance to weigh in on the budget proposal.

Over the weekend, yellow leaflets warning of “major cuts to public safety,” including four potential fire station closures, were distributed to homes across Tacoma.

“Your neighborhood fire station will potentially be CLOSED under the budget proposed by the City Manager of the City of Tacoma,” the fliers said.

The leaflets also identify five fire stations as being considered for for the four potential closures. They name Stations 4 (Hilltop), 6 (Downtown) 11 (McKinley) 13 (Proctor) and 15 (Southeast).

The fliers, which urge citizens to attend Tuesday’s council meeting, go on to say Arellano’s plan “will result in a historic decrease in fire and police protection provided to the Citizens of Tacoma.”

Asked if the information on the fliers was accurate, McNair-Huff directed questions to Fire Chief Ron Stephens.

“The chief will talk about the full (fire department budget) proposal at noon tomorrow, and I don’t want to preempt that,” he added.  “I will say I haven’t heard about four stations closing.”

I’ve left a message for fire department spokesman Joe Meineke and will update this post with his response.

UPDATE: 2:43pm

Fire spokesman Joe Meineke called back, but declined to comment on any information cited in the fliers.

“The chief would not like to comment on that this point,” Meineke said. “He’s been directed not to talk about this until tomorrow.”

 

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