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Tacoma: 14 city employees lose jobs today amid budget cuts

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Jan. 6, 2012 at 5:21 pm with No Comments »
January 6, 2012 6:02 pm

The City of Tacoma laid off 14 general government employees today — far fewer than the 67 positions targeted for layoff last month amid a projected $31 million city budget shortfall.

“Those are folks who are actually leaving the organization from this first round of layoffs,” city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said of job cut figures released today.

In addition, an undisclosed number of employees have been demoted into lesser paying jobs or transferred into non-general fund positions, McNair-Huff said.  Another 39 general government workers have opted to take a $12,000 lump sum incentive to retire.

The city did not provide the names of the employees laid off on Friday.  A “high-level” accounting of the layoffs, demotions, transfers and retirements is expected to be made to the City Council on Tuesday, McNair-Huff said.

As we reported Thursday, the actual number of employees losing their jobs today is far less than what Interim City Manager Rey Arellano had proposed on Dec. 6, as part of a plan to close about $22 million of a projected $31 million shortfall to the city’s general fund budget for 2011-12.

In all, Arellano had proposed a first-round of 167 city layoffs — including 100 police and fire employees and about 67 general goverment workers — by year’s end.  Arellano added that by March, budget officials will further assess the city’s budget situation to determine if even more cuts will be needed.

At the request of the city’s police and fire unions, which are now negotiating possible concessions to reduce public safety job cuts, the council agreed last month to postpone all police and fire layoffs up to Feb. 6  (At least 19 police and fire employees already have opted to take the city’s retirement offer.)

Meantime, layoffs proposed for the 67 general government positions proceeded to today’s implementation date.

McNair Huff said today the number of public safety layoffs affected by postponement amid ongoing talks is now slightly higher than the number Arellano proposed last month.  In all, there are 110 public safety positions targeted for layoff, including 60 police, 47 fire and three municipal court positions, he said.

But McNair-Huff added that it’s not the case that proposed public safety layoffs are actually increasing.

“At the time of the Dec. 6 report, the numbers were not completely solid at that point,” he said.  And because public safety layoffs have since been postponed amid negotiations, he said, the city hasn’t officially updated its numbers.

City human resources director Joy St. Germain said Thursday that while the city will still receive the savings from most of job cuts proposed last month, the actual number of employees losing jobs was reduced by retirements, demotions and transfers.

City officials have said they tried put off making some of the cuts as long as possible through today’s implementation deadline, while reviewing options to save as many jobs as possible.

But some city employees have said the city’s opaque budget cutting process has left some workers in an uneasy limbo, while they’ve waited to find out if they’d lose their livelihoods.

“Everybody in this building to this date are in an uproar,  because they still don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” one employee said Thursday, on the eve of layoffs. “People are on roller coasters.”

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