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Time-off without pay
Workers helping ease city budget crisis
Councilman Vince Hernandez makes a point during last week’s council retreat where budget-cutting strategies were discussed. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Furloughs for all workers — time-off without pay— is a key building block in the City of Manteca’s efforts to cover a budget deficit of at least $11.3 million for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The plan calls for every employee to lose 80 hours of work or 3.8 percent of their annual pay. It will translate into 112 hours a year for firefighters as they have a different work schedule.

In reality, employees will actually receive a bit more money after a year of furloughs. That is because a pay increase negotiated several years ago — 4 percent for all employees except police officers who will get a 6 percent hike — is still going into effect Jan. 1.

The cost of that pay increase is factored into the projected deficit for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Administrative Services Manager Joe Kriskovich said such a strategy makes sense for both employees and the city. It means the city won’t have to play catch-up when the economy improves to deliver previously agreed upon pay hikes plus do so retroactively. The pay raises were agreed upon to bring Manteca municipal workers close to the medium of what comparable cities in the region pay for similar jobs.

It also means that the furloughs — which employees would have a hard time blocking if a fiscal emergency is declared — allows Manteca to absorb much of the hit in the current financial situation without impacting services.

Furloughs also avoid lay-doffs of employees, something the city hasn’t done in at least 30 years if ever. The city is, though, in a hiring freeze with only essential jobs being filled when they are vacated.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton has indicated that the furloughs plus other budget reduction strategies being put in place by department heads means Manteca is currently on target to cover about half of the deficit.

The furlough strategies include:

• the executive management, mid-management, general services (Operating Engineers Local No. 3), and technical services and support (Carpenter’s Local No. 25) would have 80 hours of furlough starting July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010.

• Manteca Police Officers Association and Manteca Police Employees Association would have 80 hours of furlough starting Jan. 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010.

• Firefighters (International Association of Firefighters No. 1874) will switch from a 24 hours and 48 hours off schedule to a 48 hours on and a 96 hours off schedule on a trial basis through Dec. 31, 2011 in a bid to reduce sick leave costs. They also will take 112 hours of furlough starting July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010.

Other labor cost saving strategies include:

• closing city hall during the furlough period for the week of Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas.

• a two-year service credit to encourage those near retirement to do so to save the city higher cost salaries.

• switching to a work schedule with every other Friday off starting March 1, 2009.

• transfer people in general fund positions to enterprise-funded positions (sewer, water, and refuse collection) when openings exist.