Manteca’s municipal workforce will be down to pre-21st century staffing levels when Dec. 22 rolls around.
That is when the last among 12 city employees notified in June that they could be laid off in the last six months of this year are entering their final days in municipal employment. When they are gone, Manteca will have trimmed 21 percent of its workforce in four years going from 433 workers down to 342.
City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted that the loss of the additional employees over the past few months has made it impossible for the public not to see noticeable drops in service levels.
“We can’t fill all of the gaps,” McLaughlin said. “We just don’t have the people.”
Initially, Manteca used retirements, rethinking job duties, sharing employees between departments, and having managers pick up additional workload as ways to keep everything covered with minimum impact on services. The city however has passed that point.
“We had a lean staff to begin with,” McLaughlin said.
Surveys of city workers per 1,000 residents of other municipalities the county as well as similar cites in the region supports McLaughlin’s contention.
The layoffs this time around will leave one department - vehicle maintenance - without any management. Bob Moulden, the vehicle maintenance supervisor of 10 years, is departing Dec. 22. The administrative assistant has also been laid off. That leaves nine workers who maintain 400 pieces of equipment without supervision.
McLaughlin said it is up to Public Works Director Mark Houghton to find someone within existing staff to oversee vehicle maintenance. Cutbacks in the past have resulted in various Public Works staff assuming direct supervision of various operations. It has gone as far as even moving one Public Works engineer - Fredrick Clark - out of public works and into the position of Community Development direction.
The layoffs are the result of a plan cobbled together by former City Manager Steve Pinkerton working with various bargaining groups to make necessary budget cuts that were spread proportionally to each segment of employees. It was part of a bid to eliminate the city’s structured deficit so that the city will stop spending more than it takes in during any given year.
McLaughlin said barring “the economy taking a dump” current property and sales tax trends - the two key municipal revenues for general fund operations - the city will zero out its structured deficit in four years.
Bargaining groups were given the option of taking the reduction in the form of higher employee contributions for benefits and retirement or through the elimination of positions. As it happened, the mid-management group and the technical support groups - representing Moulden and his administrative assistant respectively - opted not to take the hit all through increased employee contributions for benefits. That is what resulted in specific individuals’ jobs being eliminated based on seniority and bumping rights within each bargaining group.
Five of the 12 opted to take retirement. McLaughlin said a number has already been laid off shortly after July 1.
The positions include two engineers, the two vehicle maintenance employees, three non-patrol police employees, two community development staff members, an administrative assistant, and one solid waste division worker.