By SHELLEY TERRY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Facing a wave of layoffs, a group of sanitation department employees say the city manager’s proposed 2013 budget will short change the public of their basic services.
The city manager says the services will be slower, but the city will continue to provide them.
The budget proposal will combine the sanitation and public works departments and reduce the employees from 32 to 23 employees, come March. These are the people who pick up trash and leaf bags, plow snow and fill potholes on a daily basis.
In the past three years, these departments have lost seven workers, and those who are left say they can’t take any more cuts.
City Manager Jim Timonere said when he started his proposed budget, he faced a $600,000 deficit in public works.
“The general fund has to supplement it,” he said. “We needed to get public works in line and that means layoffs.”
The workers — all members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1197 — want the city manager to look elsewhere to trim his deficit.
“We are short staffed now,” said Colin Fagan, a city employee and resident. “If we are laid off, people won’t get services. Their streets won’t get plowed, their garbage won’t get picked up. They are being misled.”
Sanitation department employee Chad Mongenel said, “The sanitation department is the least paid in the city — (the city manager) starts cutting at the lowest and what the people pay for (services).”
“We are paid good money, but we are the least paid compared to other departments,” he said.
Sanitation department employee David Wood said he wasn’t happy to hear that city officials want to hire a part-time finance clerk while laying off full-time sanitation workers.
“Our union contract says seasonal and part-time employees must go home before and full-time people in the union city-wide,” Wood said.
Fagan said if nine more sanitation workers lose their jobs, all the perks residents enjoy will have to go.
“No more walk-ups, no more courtesies and catering to customers,” he said. “All of the small-town advantages will be gone. There will be no time.”
Timonere said the number of layoffs will be determined by the number of older employees taking the buy-out option presented to them. He also said sanitation will have the same number of people working the garbage trucks because “people will move from other departments.”
The workers, who didn’t all want their names in the newspaper, aren’t impressed with the buy-out plan.
The buy-out isn’t anything but “taking your retirement and going home,” Mongenel said.
Timonere’s plan isn’t just laying off workers. He took a $10,000 a year pay-cut, and other department heads will see a 4 percent cut in salary. He also reduced all non-union salary employees’ income by 2 percent.
Timonere said there is only about $180,000 difference between revenue and expenditures for 2013.
“I know (sanitation workers) bust their butts; that’s why I’m combining the departments to make sure the guys are on the garbage trucks first,” he said. “If anyone wants to talk to me about that, my door is always open.”
City Auditor Dana Pinkert backed the manager, saying layoffs were necessary because there is simply not enough money.