Aspen lays off six employees |

Aspen lays off six employees

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The city of Aspen announced Friday the layoffs of six employees, citing a decline in both revenues and demand for services to the construction industry.

The cuts were made in the city’s engineering and community development departments.

The layoffs came Thursday, when the city trimmed five positions from the community development department, including one seasonal position. Two employees in that department also saw their hours reduced to 30 and 35 hours, respectively.

The city also cut one position in the engineering department, and transferred another employee.

The cuts come after recent decisions not to rehire for a senior project manager position in the engineering department or a zoning officer position in the community development department.

Through the layoffs and attrition, the city said it will save $698,375 annually, though it won’t realize that full savings this year, as most employees worked a few months of the year.

The savings are in addition to $1.4 million the city shaved from its $25 million general fund budget in early February through budget cuts, a selective hiring freeze and a pay freeze for all employees.

All but one or two of the employees who were laid off had worked for the city for fewer than two years, said city spokeswoman Sally Spaulding. Affected workers received one week of severance pay for each year of completed service, with a maximum of eight weeks’ severance. The city also will offer placement assistance to those employees, who were given two weeks’ notice.

“The cuts are directly tied to a review of current workloads and activities, as well as looking at departments that have been really staffed up for the amazing amount of development we’ve seen in Aspen in the last few years,” Spaulding said.

In the last few months, explained Spaulding, the city worked to gauge current and future demand in the community development and engineering departments. In addition to reviewing current activity, it also undertook a survey to determine future need ” calling all inactive permit holders to inquire about their plans, Spaulding said.

“Based on that analysis, we realized we needed to make some cuts in those departments,” she said. “The workload just wasn’t there.”

“It personally tears me apart to have to make these decisions,” said Community Development Director Chris Bendon, in a prepared statement. “We have a team of highly dedicated, professional people, but we need to be realistic about our economic conditions, building activity and staffing levels.”

Another round of operating budget cuts is expected to be made at a March 24 meeting of the Aspen City Council; city staff will present revised revenue forecasts, according to Spaulding. In preparation, each department has been asked to create budget scenarios with another 5 and 10 percent in cuts. Cuts in capital projects at the city of Aspen are also under review.

Spaulding anticipating the city was looking at a roughly 20 percent cut to its budget after the March meeting. She did not know if those budget cuts would result in more personnel cuts.

“There’s no, I guess, hard and fast rule as to where cuts will be happening,” she said. “A lot has to do with where the work is, where they can make other cuts. We’re trying to make these cuts where there is the least impact to the public as possible.”

In the meantime, the human resources department has been working with City Manager Steve Barwick to consider additional options, like furloughs, to cut the budget without laying off employees, she said.

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