City plans for possible layoffs
From press release
City of Rockford officials on Sept. 15 notified union leaders of impending layoffs which may come as soon as Oct. 2, 2009. The notification, which serves as the first step in the Reduction in Force (RIF) process, is a contractual requirement that allows union and city leaders to begin discussion on the impact to union personnel.
City council approved a balanced budget in March of this year, and expenses have been closely monitored throughout the year. Yet, the continued decline in revenues have left the budget with a $3.5 million deficit which must be addressed before 2010.
We have discussed the possibility of a RIF for several months, but the continued decline in revenues required that we take action. Over the course of the past year, we have stayed on budget, have continued to reduce expenses through furlough days and leaving vacant positions open, but we cannot overcome the decline in our revenues without further reducing our workforce,
stated Mayor Morrissey.
We foresee limited recovery in revenues in 2010 and 2011, together with multi-million-dollar increases in pension liabilities. We cannot responsibly plan for these next two years without addressing the current budget gap,
Across the organization, nearly 30 currently-vacant positions will be left open indefinitely, and an additional 30 positions will be subject to the layoff program.
While the city does predict that some services may be impacted, they have worked to minimize the negative impact on the delivery of services in the public safety sector. The recent grant award of Federal Justice Department Grant to the Rockford Police Department will give the force $3.5 million to pay full salary and benefits for 15 officers, over a three-year period.
Chief Bergsten of the Rockford Fire Department has worked to realign his organization to minimize the impact on his fire suppression crews. Services provided by the Public Works Department may take a more direct hit as customer service requests may take staff longer to respond, and snow removal may take longer to complete.
We cannot continue to provide curb-to-curb snow removal on residential roads. The contractor will not be called out as early as we had in the past, leaving this job to city crews. We can plow the center of the street and keep the main roads clear, but our residential streets will not see the same level of service. It will simply take longer to clear the streets,
pointed out Tim Hanson, director of Public Works.
In anticipation of the shortfall in 2009 and the continued decline in 2010, Mayor Morrissey created an ad hoc Budget Advisory Group, consisting of the financial leaders from the private and public sector.
Given the challenges we have at hand, the work of the Budget Advisory Committee has become even more vital. The expertise of this group of our advisers will allow us to provide better analysis and to provide better solutions for our citizens,
the Mayor said.
It has been this type of fiscal planning and conservatism that has allowed the city to maintain its A1 rating with Moody’s Investors Service. This rating will allow the city access to the credit market at a competitive rate.
We certainly understand the challenges this RIF will bring to both our employees and our citizens. We will continue to be open to discussions with our union leaders on suggested alternatives, and we will continue to work closely with our aldermen and department heads to ensure we have the best solution for our citizens,
the Mayor concluded.
From the September 23-29, 2009 issue
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