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Lathrop postpones decision on layoffs
Cost-saving suggestions: Stop citys funding of The Rush, plus slash 10% off management salaries
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LATHROP — Lathrop City Council members postponed putting their official stamp on the proposed elimination of 15 positions Wednesday night by agreeing to meet with union representatives one more time on Friday to look at other options to trim the anticipated $2.8 million annual budget deficit.

Mayor Kristy Sayles and Council member Sonny Dhaliwal will meet with Service Employees International Union representatives on Friday for further discussions. The council is expected to officially vote on the proposed layoffs at a special meeting on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

“It’s a painful problem to deal with but it’s something that we have to deal with,” said interim City Manager Cary Keaten on the cost-saving measures they have come up with to avoid a looming $16 million deficit in five years.

Union representatives said they are simply asking the city to postpone the layoffs and continue the negotiations because, as union spokesman Ralph Pullido said, “there are still other options” to bridge the estimated annual budget deficit of approximately $2.8 million.

He asked the council to “exhaust all options before moving on to layoffs.”

“We’re asking you to allow us to be part of the solution,” union spokesman Pulido told the council.

After all, he said, “the survival of the city is our survival.”

Some of the options mentioned by the union representatives as well as concerned residents to save some jobs from the chopping block:

•Eliminating two employee “perks” – the health care “kickback” which would save $77,000 a year. That alone saves one job, Pullido said. The city could also eliminate the “education cash-out” perk for employees which would translate to “almost another position that can be saved,” he said. Last year, that amount was $48,430 with only two employees taking advantage of it, Pulido said.

•Eliminating the employee compensation study is another way of cutting costs. Pulido pointed out that last year’s compensation study cost was to the tune of $45,000. “What’s the use of doing it? We’re doing a study that will not accomplish anything,” he said.

•Getting rid of outsourcing plan-checking jobs that could be done in-house, thereby saving as much as $150,000 a year, Pulido said. “Why are we sending out money to other places?” he asked.

“That’s all we ask, to sit down and look at these options,” Pulido said.

Keaten, responding to the mayor’s question as to the cost of plan checks for the current fiscal year, said he did not have that figure at his fingertips.

“We need to research that,” Keaten said.

Also in response to another question from the mayor, Keaten said that compensation studies costs were not taken into account in the budget-slashing “because we saw that as one-time costs.”

Human Resources Director Katie Lemons said at the most, that figure was $25,000.

Resident Rosalinda Valencia offered other cost-cutting measures that the city could do to save city jobs. She suggested eliminating the $1,200 a month being paid by the city to the monthly Lathrop Rush for public service announcements.

“Sorry, mayor, you can’t have your personal paper anymore,” Valencia said to Sayles. The mayor did not offer a response.
Lathrop business owner Steve Ramsey suggested that the city could “immediately” save $300,000 just by cutting top management employees’ salaries by 10 percent.

Based on information he gathered on the city’s web site, he said, there are 10 management employees making $10,000 a month and 16 making $8,500 a month.

“I know some of these jobs are not filled,” he said, but cutting 10 percent off the top salaries “would save the city $300,000 immediately,” he said.

At his own business, said Ramsey, they had to cut their management costs with him and his wife taking over added responsibilities.

“If you have to postpone looking at these (proposed layoffs) in a few days, you have to do it,” he told the council.

“These folks are not the ones that need to be laid off,” said Ramsey, referring to the bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees whose jobs are being eliminated.

Piggy-backing on Ramsey’s comments, former mayor Bennie Gatto said we’re “throwing away a lot of money at the top” of the employment hierarchy at City Hall. He said he has seen these budget dilemmas and had dealt with these “hard decisions” before as a two-time mayor.

“There’s a lot of money at the top. These guys here are working for peanuts,” he said, referring to those whose jobs are on the chopping block.

With the anticipated resolution of former chief building official Matt Browne’s wrongful-termination complaint against the city with the judge ruling in his favor, “we’re going to be another million dollars in the hole,” Gatto warned city officials.

SEIU representative Caroline Lucas asked the council members not to vote on the proposed layoffs “if there are still options. We’re willing to meet; we’re willing to negotiate.”

She said it’s not fair that of the total number proposed positions to be eliminated, eight are union jobs and only one is management staff.

“This is not fair; this is not equitable,” Lucas said.

Council member Christopher Mateo, reading from a prepared statement, said he felt that there’s a need to extend the negotiations with the union members and that there are “still issues that need to be resolved.”

The mayor responded saying, “that’s something that we already have done.”

“When we let somebody go, that’s the hardest decision,” said Council member Sonny Dhaliwal.

Negotiation talks over the proposed layoffs of 10 employees between the city of Lathrop and union representatives will continue on Friday.

After that, the City Council will have a special meeting on Saturday to vote on the budget cut proposals.

Other positions being proposed for elimination are jobs that have been budgeted, such as that of the assistant city manager, but has not been filled.