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Tacoma: City Manager T.C. Broadnax set to propose 217 job cuts, staff reorganizations to help meet projected $63 million shortfall in 2013-14 general fund

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
October 2, 2012 11:44 am

Tacoma’s City Manager T.C. Broadnax seeks to eliminate about 217 city jobs to help balance a general fund budget that faces a projected $63 million shortfall over the next two years.

Broadnax

“My job is to rectify this situation and to strengthen the foundation of our budget as we move forward,” Broadnax told The News Tribune Tuesday morning during a preview of his 2013-14 budget plan.

Jobs targeted for elimination include a mix of about 60 -65 already vacant positions, plus expected retirements and layoffs. More than 80 percent are union jobs – about the same ratio of the city’s current workforce — with public works, police and fire departments taking the brunt of the cuts, he said.

The cuts will mean a reduction in city services, though Broadnax didn’t provide specifics of what those cuts might mean to the public.

“They will feel something different – possibly in the police area, the fire area, the public works area,” he said, adding library patrons also will feel impacts.

Broadnax is expected to give more details of his spending plan today, when he presents the full budget proposal to the City Council during a noon meeting.

Earlier today, he noted his budget plan assumes no concessions from labor unions, though he said city officials continue to negotiate such potential give-backs.

In all, unionized city general government employees are expected to receive pay increases of about $20 million over the next two years in raise deferrals, new contracts and agreements still being negotiated, he said.

“I assume I’m going to pay (the bargained raises) because I’ve committed to do that,” Broadnax said. He added he hopes labor unions will offer concessions to save jobs in the weeks ahead.

Several city union officials did not return calls left Monday seeking comment about Broadnax’s forthcoming proposal.

Broadnax said he’ll also seek to eliminate furlough days for non-represented workers who have taken them over the past year, effectively reducing their pay by 4.6 percent.

As part of his plan, Broadnax also will seek to make three major reorganizations within city departments to help streamline services, he said.

He plans to remove city utilities — water, sewer and solid waste services — from under the city’s Public Works Department to create a new Environmental Services Department.

The city’s Human Rights and Human Services Department will be merged with city code enforcement and Community Based Services to create the new Neighborhood and Human Services Department. Current Human Services director Linda Bremer has opted to retire, Broadnax said. Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward is expected to be named director of the newly created department, sources have said.

Broadnax also plans to remove the city’s Planning division and its Building and Land Use Services from the Community and Economic Development Department,  appointing a new director to directly oversee them. That move is meant to “demystify the maze” of such land use services for developers, he said.

Broadnax, who took over the city’s chief executive position in February, said he inherited what he called an unsustainable budget that faces ballooning expenses – mostly for employee pay – while city revenues largely remain stagnant.

Over the next two years, the city projects about $382 million in total revenues, but estimates expenses of about $445 million, he said.

To help him craft his budget plan, Broadnax held a series of public meetings this year to gauge citizens’ priorities in city services. He also asked each of his department heads to propose trims of 15 percent from their respective department budgets.  The city recently also has offered a $12,000 lump sum retirement incentive to employees who are eligible to retire.

Broadnax’s budget plan wasn’t expected to come as a surprise. For months, city officials have warned major cutbacks were in the works.

“It’s not a surprise, but I would say it is a shock,” Councilman Ryan Mello said Monday. “Now, it becomes very, very real.”

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