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54 layoffs possible in 30 days
Manteca sends out notices to 248 city workers
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Thirty-day layoff notices are being sent to 248 City of Manteca employees today.

Ultimately – if the five employee bargaining groups affected don’t agree to a proposal to basically forgo cost of living increases for the next two years plus having to pay more out-of-pocket for retirement – at least 54 of those layoff notices will translate to the loss of jobs in mid-October.

The Manteca Police Employee Association that represents criminal technicians, community service officers, dispatchers, and other police support services has already agreed to the proposal and won’t be receiving lay-off notices.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton indicated the Manteca City Council’s directive was to “spread the pain” equally among municipal employees. The goal was to minimize actual out-of-pocket losses for employees.  Asking the groups to forgo negotiated 4 percent cost of living increases for the next two years was part of the strategy of giving up future income in lieu of a larger chunk of their current paychecks.

Even if all of the employee groups agree, there will still be $1.7 million remaining of the deficit for 2009-10 that originally started at $14 million. Pinkerton said staff believes there are other ways to bridge that remaining gap through leaving positions vacant as retirements come up in the next  10 months to other ways of reducing expenses.

Virtually all of the financial impacts on employees - out-of-pocket losses plus future pay losses – would take place starting Jan. 1, 2010.

The layoffs – should they ultimately happen – would break down as follows:

•10 firefighters.

•16 police officers

•About 30 general services employees.

Why so many layoff notices are being sent
The reason the number of actual notices being sent out is so high – 248 out of 350 employees – has everything to do with bargaining agreements in place. Police and fire service are clear cut on who has seniority. It is different in other departments where someone with seniority – who may be the “last hired” on the street crew for example may actually have worked 15 years in the parks division which means they may have a higher seniority when it comes to layoffs providing they worked in another position.

There also have been a number of transfers between departments in recent months in a bid to move workers from general fund accounts into enterprise fund account vacancies such as water, sewer, and garbage collection positions that are supported by ratepayers. Essentially, the personnel department needs to sort out the employment history of each employee with the city before determining exactly who will get laid off if it comes to that.

Pinkerton noted the city couldn’t afford to keep operating in uncertainty and that not setting a cutoff date for employee bargaining groups to decide what they wanted to do as it would cost the city more money and could potentially hurt other groups that have already agreed to the terms.

The city’s position is either accept the terms of the compensation reduction or layoffs. That decision is being left to each bargaining group. It is part of a philosophy of the City Council that has been on the table from the beginning of budget cuts that all municipal employees will be treated the same. It is now up to their bargaining groups to make the final call.

Pinkerton added the City Council has made it clear if employees take the layoff route that they expect the same level of service to be maintained. That would mean shifting department’s staffing strategies around. In the case of the police, Dave Bricker has already indicated units such as the gang and detective squad would be decimated to make sure patrol levels remain the same on the streets.

Possible brown outs at city fire stations
While all of the offers are basically the same, there are subtle differences between units. One example is the fire department. Since it is easier to control overtime for fire services, when sickness and/or vacation reduces manpower to a specific level the department will “brown out” a station.

That means for a period of time – typically 24 hours at a stretch – one of Manteca’s three fire stations will be shutdown in order to maintain three-man staffing. Most cities that resort to brown outs have made sure that the station getting hit isn’t always the same.

The Manteca Police Officers Association– which represents sworn officers – could end up with 16 layoffs in October if they opt to go that way but in reality once the city gets $1.4 million in federal stimulus money specific for  law enforcement manpower  they will be able to hire four of those officers back if they are laid off. The proposal with the MPOA factors in the stimulus money no matter what route the officers’ bargaining unit takes.

Although each officer is impacted slightly different due to where they are on the salary schedule the typical out of pocket under the proposal – should they accept it – would come to about $100 a pay check  based on 24 pay periods a year plus the $1,000 once-a-year clothing allowance. That means a typical police officer would have their checks reduced $3,400 a year for the next two years. They also would be giving up future pay they don’t yet have – two back-to-back 4 percent cost of living increases.

Over a three-year period from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2011, the various employee groups will have given up compensation that was in place at the start of the 36 months plus three years of negotiated pay increases for a total reduction of 14 to 18 percent.

The largest chunk, however, is money they had yet to receive.

Pinkerton said the proposals to each unit were crafted in such a manner to “minimize the impact on employee pocketbooks.” That said, depending upon how benefits and other variables were negotiated with different units, the percentage gained by having employees increase their contributions to the retirement varies from unit to unit.

Executive management – a handful of managers that include Pinkerton – are also losing compensation of the same level of the rank-and-file.

The potential for layoffs or salary cuts would have been greater if it hadn’t been for three factors.

•The city was able to save $3.7 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009 and apply it to this year’s deficit. That was accomplished through reorganization, leaving positions vacant, and forging a negotiated pay increase.

•Tax receipts from Bass Pro Shops and Costco has helped significantly to blunt the retraction in sales tax. Without those two retailers, Pinkerton said actually layoffs could be pushing 100 employees instead of 54. Bass Pro Shop’s customer base includes a minimal amount of Manteca residents while Costco keeps Manteca consumer dollars from being spent in Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy.

•The $1 million-plus in Manteca property taxes that Sacramento hijacked with a promise to pay back in three years to cover the state’s $26 billion deficit is being plugged into the general fund through an internal $1 million-plus loan. That means the city is borrowing money from a restricted account. It requires the general fund to repay it with interest that the money could have been made being invested in a bank account.

The overall impact – should all of the employee groups agree to the terms – would to be to save $1.8 million this fiscal year or reduce employee salary and benefits by 8.05 percent overall. It would reduce overall compensation by $3.3 million in the 2010-11 fiscal years or by 13.66 percent. The big difference is the fact the memorandums of understanding with employers are on calendar years thus only six months of the current fiscal year will be affected.

Pinkerton noted the city has no choice but to slash expenses as revenues have declined.

He noted the city gave cost of living increases for several years as revenues started dropping off.

The bottom line for city leaders is they must provide services for 65,000 people with the same revenue level they had when Manteca had just 55,000 residents.