South Lake Tahoe city layoffs on hold

Elaine Goodman
Sun News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” About a half dozen city employees who were targeted for layoffs received a reprieve on Tuesday, when the City Council voted to wait until mid-July to see if the layoffs are still necessary.

Even though only about six positions are at stake, by eliminating those jobs, “you magnify the impact in our community,” Councilman Bruce Grego said.

Grego also argued that the economy might start picking up at the South Shore this summer, and that perhaps the area would receive some federal economic stimulus funds.

The proposed layoffs are just one piece of the city’s plan to reduce costs to make up for revenues that are falling short of projections for the fiscal year. Much of that revenue comes from sales tax and room tax from overnight lodging.

In March, officials were estimating a $2.8 million shortfall in the city’s $33 million general fund budget.

The council approved a first package of cost-reduction measures this year, and then in response to concerns that revenue might shrink even further, asked City Manager David Jinkens to trim another $1 million in ongoing expenses.

At its April 21 meeting, council members voted unanimously to have the city manager meet with labor representatives in preparation for the layoffs.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, Grego initially proposed postponing a decision on the layoffs until the end of September. His motion failed on a 2-2 vote, with Councilman Bill Crawford in favor and Councilwoman Kathay Lovell and Mayor Jerry Birdwell opposed. Councilman Hal Cole was absent due to illness.

Lovell said postponing the layoffs would prolong what she called an “agonizing” situation for the employees in question. And the city is still facing shrinking revenues, she said.

“I don’t think we’ve hit rock bottom yet,” Lovell said.

Lovell also noted the employees would be eligible for rehire if positions opened up for which they’re qualified.

Crawford said he was concerned that layoffs were being considered while the city still has a contract with the Houston Group, a consultant that provides legislative advocacy services for the city for about $45,000.

In response to the council’s request last month, Jinkens is looking at cutting back or eliminating the group’s services.

Crawford also said he didn’t think city administrators had looked hard enough for other cost savings.

“People come first,” Crawford said.

Lovell proposed postponing the layoffs until mid-July, a motion that was approved 4-0.

The layoff proposal calls for eliminating six positions, but two of those employees would likely transfer to different city positions, Jinkens said. Two engineering positions are being eyed for elimination unless grant funds to pay for them come through by Sept. 30.

Keeping the employees on the payroll through mid-July will cost about $28,700, according to city Finance Director Christine Vuletich.

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