Budget woes force Carbondale layoffs
October 28, 2009
CARBONDALE – A 25 percent drop in revenues this year alone forced the town of Carbondale to lay off four full-time workers Monday, including a police officer position.
The town will also impose wage cuts across the board, and employees will have to take five furlough days next year, according to a town press release.
The layoffs were unavoidable, said Town Manager Tom Baker, who will also take a 15 percent cut in salary and benefits.
“We wanted to get all our ducks in a row before we made any decisions [regarding personnel cuts],” Baker said. “But it needed to be done immediately.
“It is disappointing,” he said. “We have been talking to everyone in Town Hall for the last few weeks, and we met with the entire staff [Tuesday] morning to let them know what the comprehensive approach would be moving forward.”
Ultimately, the drop in revenue is considered to be the new reality, leading to a restructuring of town staffing levels for the foreseeable future, Baker said.
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Carbondale has seen a 25 percent decrease in revenues for 2009, including a more than 16 percent drop in sales tax revenues. Town officials are projecting another 3 to 5 percent decrease in 2010.
“The town trustees believe the revenues they are seeing now are the new norm to work with for planning the future,” Baker said in the press release.
Town officials had hoped to put off any layoffs until the beginning of the year, but the latest numbers for this year required drastic decisions, he said.
In addition to the four full-time positions, one part-time position was also eliminated.
“Remaining employees will have to take over extra duties due to the layoffs,” Baker said.
In addition to the patrol officer position, layoffs included two positions in the community development department, a full-time code enforcement position and a part-time planning technician position.
The town receptionist position was also eliminated, and the public works department laid off a street maintenance worker, he said.
“Two other employees will work fewer than 40 hours per week in 2010,” Baker said.
Over the past several months, town trustees and staff have been considering ways to manage the shortfall and still provide all necessary services.
“It was decided that matches for one of the town’s two retirement benefits will be eliminated in 2010, and every employee will take five furlough days next year,” Baker explained.
Combined, that will result in a 4 percent reduction in benefits and pay for all employees, not including the larger salary and benefit cut for his own position, Baker said.
A wage and hiring freeze that was imposed in mid-2008 when revenues began declining continued all this year.
Four positions had already been eliminated through attrition since that time, Baker said.
“Each department held meetings to better understand the economic picture, and every employee was offered the opportunity to voluntarily work fewer hours,” he added. “Many staff members said they would be willing to sacrifice in order to minimize layoffs. Some town employees came forward with proposals to work less, understanding it would be better than not working at all.”
When it came to deciding which positions to cut, Baker said they looked to departments where duties could be more easily absorbed by other workers.
Because the workload is down significantly in building and planning this year, that’s where the most cuts were made.
“We continue to have virtually no building revenues coming into the town,” Baker said. “We looked at the cuts in a strategic way, so that we could absorb the workload without service levels being noticeably changed.”