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Lathrop eliminates 10 more positions
City braces up for possible additional layoffs, shutdown of more municipal services
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LATHROP – The worst is yet to come.

But Lathrop city officials are hoping against hope that will not happen even as they unanimously approved on Monday the elimination of 10 more positions at City Hall including that of the Human Resources director to avoid depleting the city’s general fund reserves and shutting down services.

What they’re hoping will not happen is for the Great Recession to either stay the same or to continue its downward spiral. If the sluggish economy stays the same, they will have to use more of the city’s reserves or savings to stay afloat. If that happens, the reserves will be all used up in a little more than two years.

If the sad state of the economy deteriorates further, Lathrop could see another round of employee layoffs and be forced to close some departments at City Hall. Those cutbacks will most likely come from the Police Services and union employees, with the city negotiating with both parties for additional layoffs. If the dismal fiscal conditions worsen, the city, as a last resort, will have to shut down departments at City Hall in the spring of 2011.

It was under these dire fiscal conditions that City Council members, with a “heavy heart,” voted unanimously to approve Phase 3 of the fiscal survival plan that began in the spring of last year with the layoff of 17 city employees and cutting back such expenses as employee training, business travels like the One Voice lobbying trip, and new-equipment purchases.

With this current round of layoffs, the budget still has a deficit of $648,000. The elimination of the 11 positions saved the city $852,000.

“After Phase 1, we hoped the economy would get better so as not to go to Phase 3,” said City Manager Cary Keaten.

But that didn’t happen, so they had to go on to Phase 3 of the survival plan, he said. In Phase 2, the city instituted Friday furloughs with all city employees taking 10 percent pay cuts and closing City Hall and Police Services every Friday, with the exception of emergency services.

“Everybody on this (layoff) list, I know them in person. But the city is much more important than all of us. I don’t know what else we can do,” said Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal who took it upon himself to make the motion to approve the layoffs but “with a heavy heart and regret.”

Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo seconded the motion.

The exception to the original recommendation of 11 employees to be laid off was the Office Assistant which the council saved from the chopping block saying that position will be crucial to the running of services at City Hall.

Councilman Robert Oliver pointed out that “the city is a service business” and not into manufacturing, and therefore, “we can’t go out and buy cheaper lumber to build houses” to make some savings.

He also assured those who were losing their jobs that he understood their situation, saying, “I’ve been terminated before so I know the embarrassment and the hardship” that come with it.

“With malice toward none and charities for all, the city must survive,” he commented prior to the council vote.