Sixteen Manteca municipal workers – including six firefighters – are losing their jobs July 1.
It’s not enough, though, to bridge a $4.2 million general fund budget gap projected for the fiscal year that starts in 41 days. The city still has about $2.5 million to cut. The balance will be either through the remaining employees taking what may average out to be a 10 percent reduction in compensation, additional layoffs, or a combination of the two. How the rest is bridged will be decided basically by negotiations with each employee bargaining units.
City Manager Steve Pinkerton said the decision on how that will be done will be made in the next few weeks as the city must have a balanced budget by July 1.
The positions being eliminated are:
• six firefighter jobs. Three firefighters will lose their jobs and three battalion chiefs will be reduced in rank to firelighters which in turn will bump three others with less seniority who will lose their jobs.
• three police department jobs. No police officers will lose their jobs. Instead, three support personnel will depart July 1. The exact positions eliminated will depend on seniority and bumping based on who is qualified to do particular jobs.
• three public works positions.
• two Community Development Department workers.
• two administrative assistants.
Pinkerton said the positions that were eliminated were done in a manner to assure that the city could continue to deliver the best possible service it can with dwindling resources.
Manteca cuts 98 workers in 4 years
Manteca in the last four years has reduced its workforce from 432 to 340 while the population has climbed 5,000. Of those 340 positions, 140 of them are covered by the stressed general fund that has been hit hard by drops in property and sales taxes. The remaining 200 workers are in enterprise operations such as sewer water, and garbage services that are financed by users’ fees or are paid through special funds such as the redevelopment agency.
The previous reductions were attained through attrition, retirements, and layoffs.
All city employees except for sworn police officers have taken an average of 10 percent reductions in compensation over the past three years excluding the forgoing of pre-negotiated pay raises. Police officers actually saw an increase in compensation as they opted to hold fast to their contract and take pre-negotiated pay raises which in turn prompted the city to lay off 12 police officers.
All of the contracts expire Dec. 31 of this year.
Pinkerton said city workers, despite cutbacks in staff and reduction in compensation, have stepped up to assure Manteca residents receive the best possible service.
“They are the ones that have made the city work,” Pinkerton said.
The city manager added that staffing had already been reduced to razor-thin levels meaning that the city could not avoid impacting service levels in order to balance the budget.
Pinkerton noted that in order to avoid layoffs every employee in the city would have had to agree to a compensation reduction of at least 30 percent on top of the average 10 percent that almost all have already taken including non-sworn police personnel.
All the reserves are gone
Manteca had to go to bridging the gap between projected revenue and expenses with all personnel cost cuts as the city exhausted reserves in the general fund over the past four years balancing the budget.
The biggest chunk of those reserves came from “bonus bucks” that the city collected from developers to assure they had sewer allocations to build homes.
The general fund is expected to end next fiscal year with an operating reserve of just $24,000. That is a far cry from five years ago when it was over $1 million.
Manteca also has an emergency reserve of $2,863,000. Pinkerton said the decision was made not to cannibalize the emergency reserve. The city needs to guard against emergencies such as an unexpected capital expense to replace vital equipment or to pay for major emergencies such as the 1997 flooding response and as a cushion against unanticipated revenue losses.
The general fund is projected to be roughly $22 million next fiscal year or 44.7 percent smaller than when it peaked at $39.8 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Ironically, the shrinking general fund has made it easy for Manteca to comply with the voter mandated Measure M public safety tax. Language in that initiative required the city to not dip below spending 62 percent of the general fund on public safety, Alter the layoffs and other compensation reductions are put in place, police and fire operations will actually consume 73 percent of every dollar spent in the general fund as opposed to 62 percent when Measure M was passed by voters.
Without the half cent sales tax, Manteca today would have `11 less police officers and 12 less firefighters.
End of the cutbacks?
Pinkerton said the city – barring the state taking money or some other unforeseen development – should be able to go four years after $4.2 million cuts are made this year without worrying about additional cutbacks. That assumes on property and sales tax revenue not decreasing in the coming years.
In 2009 when Manteca started rethinking how to deliver services to reduce costs, the anticipated deficit for the upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year was projected at $14.1 million if Manteca didn’t change its spending patterns. Savings put in place by reducing employees and the remaining workers stepping up to find more ways to do their jobs more efficiently reduced the upcoming projected deficit to $4.2 million.
The city manager noted the remaining employees ended up working harder. He added that given how thin the city now is that noticeable reduction in the level of service is unavoidable for citizens.
Some ways the city has reduced general fund costs include having solid waste workers funded from users fees pick up garbage cans in parks instead of park workers. The city is also splitting positions between funds. The wastewater treatment plant electrician, for example, works part time on general fund needs to allow the elimination of a full-time electrician position.
Pinkerton noted “the city will continue to undertake a variety of cost-saving measures in the upcoming years.” The remaining employees will also be asked to pay for an increased share of their retirement costs. Manteca is also in the process of creating a two-tier retirement system for any new employees.
Those employees given notice may have bumping rights which allow them to return to a lower position at less pay that they had previously held. When they bump another employee it could trigger additional humping rights that could take a month to work through.
Impacted employees are being offered counseling services and job development assistance.
Manteca Police impacts not noticeable to public
Police Chief Dave Bricker said the general public will not see the impact of the loss of three positions in his department as the job cuts will be in support staff with internal duties shifted.
He added that given the situation that he is proud of what his officers have done.
“They have served professionally and have stepped up and done the job with fewer officers and have been managed to reduce the crime rate,” Bricker pointed out.
Pinkerton noted volunteers have played a critical role in helping the city stretch its resources.
The city manager said staff is continuing to work on ways to pump up the general fund such as working on a deal to land the Great Wolf Resort that could bring in at least $4 million a year to the general fund in special room taxes or almost quarter of what the Manteca expects to collect in 2011-12 to operate the city’s day-to-day services.