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85% of Manteca city budget in wages, benefits
Manteca’s municipal workers are shouldering much of the weight of declining revenues triggered by the mortgage meltdown by voluntarily taking a temporary pay cut as well as shouldering an even bigger workload.

The decision by employee groups to take a 3.8 percent pay cut in the form of eight non-paid furlough days that will be sandwiched in around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s to minimize the impact on municipal services accounts for a $1.2 million savings.

The pay cut is accounting for more than 20 percent of the roughly $5 million in savings strategies already identified and being put in place to help wipeout a deficit anticipated in the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1. That deficit could reach $11.3 million by June 2010 if steps aren’t taken to reduce municipal spending.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton has indicated he believes the city can now cover half of the anticipated deficit. The balance, which will more than likely include additional employee sacrifices given the fact 85 percent of the municipal budget, covers salaries and benefits, won’t be known until April figures are in for revenue trends.

At that time the staff will forward a revised financial outlook to the City Council along with recommendations of a 15-member citizen budget committee to help the City Council deliberate on what to do to cover the remaining deficit gap.

“It (the volunteering to take a 3.8 percent pay cut) speaks volumes of employees and their commitment to the city,” said Joe Kriskovich who oversees the city’s administrative services.

Kriskovich made his remarks during last week’s meeting of the citizen’s budget advisory committee.

In response to a committee member’s questions about why the city just didn’t forgo the 4 percent pay raises that went into effect for most municipal employees Jan. 1, Kriskovich explained in the long run run it would impact the city less. It didn’t require reopening bargaining group contracts that run through 2011. It also doesn’t put Manteca in the position of playing “catch up” when the economy turns around.

Kriskovich is referring to the city’s committee to keep Manteca municipal employees in the middle tier when compared to similar sized cities plus those who compete with them for qualified and experienced employees.

When cities have money rolling in and need qualified employees such as police officers, they end up paying more to pull them away from other cities. Municipalities like Pleasanton – a fairly short commute especially given the work hours of police officers that means they miss heavy traffic – pay significantly more than Manteca pays. The lure for more experienced officers is to go there to finish out their career as retirement is based on their salaries of the last three to five years of working.

Besides stemming the drain of experienced employees, the strategy also makes it easier to keep workers in demand such as those trained to operate wastewater treatment plants. Even in today’s down economy there is a demand for qualified wastewater treatment plant operators.

It also helps reduce losing employees that the city has invested time and money training.

“We’re in the middle tier (now),” Pinkerton noted.

The contracts call for a 4 percent increase in 2010 and a 4 percent increase in 2011. Kriskovich said future years will be addressed as Manteca moves forward given the fact it is dependent on revenues.

Manteca is taking other steps such as having the existing 24 park maintenance workers take over the landscape maintenance districts plus additional parks with no additional staff. It will effectively increase the workload 25 percent which means there will be a reduction in the level of park service. The move allows money the districts pay for the physical work to go to help cover municipal park employee wages.

Some of the savings so far has been in early retirements. Those positions, including others already vacant, are not being filled. Additional early retirements plus shifting employees to non-general fund accounts as much a possible – such as water and sewer service - is expected to be a source of additional savings.

All of this requires cross-training of employees in a number of department to make them more efficient so Manteca can retain its current levels of services as much as possible.