Budget crunch costs city jobs
By Jesse Phelps
Two positions - in effect, what
remains of an entire department - are at stake this week when
the City Council convenes to vote on proposed cuts to the city
budget for the coming year. The city has been undergoing a reorganization,
separate from the budgetary crisis looming, thanks to a loss
of revenues from transient occupancy taxes under the Ojai Valley
Inn & Spa's remodel and the problems at the state level.
In his proposal to try to balance the city budget in the face
of the dramatic losses in revenue, City Manager Dan Singer has
slated the entire staff of the General Services Administration
for the chopping block. But he said the decision to eliminate
the department isn't necessarily due to the budget problems.
"The reorganization would be happening anyway if it wasn't
for the budget crunch," he said. "Whether that would
include layoffs, I couldn't say certainly. It was my hope to
keep as many employees as we could. When it became clear we could
do business more efficiently, it became my responsibility to
Though nothing was finalized as of press time - the regularly
scheduled city council meeting last night provided a forum to
debate all proposed cuts and final decisions will come through
after the start of the fiscal year July 1 -city employees Linda
Fisher-Helton and Marsha Hall have already been notified of the
potential loss of their positions.
"I'm recommending that their positions be eliminated at
the end of July," said Singer. General Services Director
Carol Fox already left the city on May 1.
Singer said all recommendations for reorganization will go before
the council on July 8. "No official decisions will be made
until that time," he said. "(Last night's meeting)
was just an indication of whether they're satisfied with the
budget the way its recommended, and then July 8 is when an actual
decision would be made."
Singer estimated the net cost to the city of the three salaries
and associated benefits at about $200,000 and said that most
of the work assigned to the General Services Administration will
be parceled out to contracted workers rather than city employees.
"We're probably spending about $70,000 to $80,000 to do
that same work (under the new system)," said Singer. That
creates "a net saving to the city of about $120,000."
The departmental budget for general services was about $160,000
this year. Singer said, "Now it'll be zero but some of those
costs will be reallocated."
The General Services Administration was a relatively new department,
created in the late 1990s to oversee the growing trolley service
and other programs like grant writing and public relations. Anything,
said Singer, "that didn't naturally fall into existing departmental
responsibilities. At this point, we're looking to dissolve that
department by reassigning those responsibilities to existing
departments (and contractors)," he said.
"It would be fair to say that we owe it to the taxpayers
of the community to do business as efficiently as possible,"
Singer said. "These are public funds."
The Ojai Valley News
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