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Santa Rosa council praises employees for accepting furloughs

Tony Alvernaz

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

City employees who agreed to accept furloughs were lauded by the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday for doing their part to help see the city through its fiscal crisis.

“This is big for our city,” said Mayor Susan Gorin. “I wanted to say thank you to our employees for stepping forward.”

The city’s largest employee union last week overwhelmingly agreed to accept furloughs that will reduce their pay by 4.6 percent. The agreement will shrink the general fund shortage by about $700,000 this year — 28 percent of the $2.5 million the city hopes to save through employee concessions.

“This isn’t everything, but it’s a big chunk of that gap,” Gorin said.

The employees always wanted to do something to help, but the negotiations took a long time because they hoped to find a way to spread the financial pain out over a longer period of time, said Tony Alvernaz, president of the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, which represents about 450 workers.

“This really shows that they’re committed to this city and to this problem and they’re willing to help,” Alvernaz said. “We can only hope that things are going to get better and we’re not in the same position a year from now.”

Alvernaz said he represents some of the lowest-paid workers in the city, who are going to feel the pain from taking the equivalent of one unpaid day off every month.

“Some members said ‘If I take this cut, I’m going to lose my house,’” Alvernaz said.

Councilman John Sawyer alluded to that pain when he noted there was a “misconception” about all city employees being “richly paid.” In fact, he said, depending on jobs and family status, some city employees are “in or below the poverty line.”

“It is very important that they step forward and we appreciate that,” Sawyer said.

Gary Wysocky also praised the employees, but cautioned his colleagues against thinking their job was done.

“This is a start. It doesn’t solve all of our problems,” he said.

Human Resources Director Fran Elm said the city continues to talk with other employee groups about reaching similar agreements.

“What this does is it sets a model in place for how other units can give a concession,” Elm said.

In addition to the SRCEA workers, 42 senior and mid-level managers and administrative employees unrepresented by a union had similar furlough requirements imposed on them.

All together, the savings for both groups would come to $1.6 million total or $870,000 for the general fund.





13 Responses to “Santa Rosa council praises employees for accepting furloughs”

  1. John bly says:

    Tony and his people have stepped up and done something. Where are the others? I don’t want to see anyone struggling, but if we are in agreement that shoring up existing businesses and attracting new ones is a big part of the long range solution, then we cannot keep stacking fees and taxes and regulations on the private side and expect businesses to choose a higher tax rate area to do business in.

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  2. Lyn Cramer says:

    @Grey

    While it’s true that art money doesn’t come directly from the city’s general fund, businesses will deduct the amount paid from their taxable income. And in a small way it does effect Santa Rosa’s revenue.

    Not only is the business owner is out money that might have gone for other, more productive things, California’s taxable income is lower. Since California’s income is down it sends less money to local governments, who cry loudly.

    As in most things in life, there’s no free lunch here.

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  3. John says:

    Jacoby and Gorin are up for re-election in November. Lets start to make a change.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  4. Dan Delgado says:

    Hey John,

    You’re absolutely right. As soon as we start allowing these revenue generating businesses to set up shop in our town, we can then have a discussion about what to do with the money they bring in. But so long as our current union-backed officials keep saying “no” to these projects (because, let us not forget, their objective is to preserve union jobs and heaven forbid a non-union employer be allowed to establish itself here), the money, as you observed, goes someplace else.

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  5. John says:

    Hey Dan, How about all of the tax revenue lost due to internet shopping because we don’t allow some of the bigger businesses to develop in our city. People shop where products are cheaper and that is where the tax revenue goes(Amazon.com etc.). Notice a trend with our city yet … No to WalMart, No to Lowes, No to a downtown highrise, No! No! No!

    Business puts people to work. Those people then spend money. That money is taxed. Some of those taxes pay for city operating costs.
    NO BUSINESSES = BROKE CITY (pretty simple)

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  6. Grey Whitmore says:

    @Dan, it all sounds rational but you simply have some of your facts wrong.

    \for pet projects like public art or grandiose buildings.\

    The public art that has gone up in Santa Rosa in the last number of months was paid for by the 1% for Art Program. This art was fully paid for by the developer of the Nissan dealer. No funds were pulled from the general fund.

    The building. Again, the city needs buildings to function and it is my understanding this building will lead to gains in productivity, which are essentially a cost savings. Additionally, the cost of said building has dropped significantly with the recession.

    So sure, I agree with most of your points but your facts are off.

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  7. Dan Delgado says:

    Brian,

    Right on! I couldn’t agree more. Now, how do you propose we pay for it?

    No one disputes our municipal employees are good people deserving of decent jobs. But, then again, aren’t we all? What I hear more and more is an expectation that just because they are good and decent people, the city is somehow obligated to provide them employment. The city is not a charity. It doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) provide jobs just because people are decent, hard working folks. I’m sure the millions of folks laid off from private sector jobs are all equally deserving.

    But to be fair, the employees and their unions and their increasngly generous pay and benefit packages are not solely to blame. We as a community have made and continue to make bad decisions. We take more and more of our money and put it into dedicated funds for pet projects like public art or grandiose buildings. That works to some extent when times are good. But when times turn bad, we continue to spend our money on feel good projects and then cry about the lack of money available for core services. In our household, the first thing we cut were the discetionary items. It’s time we as a community do the same thing.

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  8. Brian Brown says:

    To the “Thumbs Downers” I don’t want to see these good people struggle to support their families. I want them to be secure and prosper. I’m no fan of their union, granted. But these are people with families.

    There… I feel better.

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  9. History says:

    It’s the economy, brilliance. Did anyone notice a sudden drop in property values? Property taxes are based on that. Less value, less money for the cities and counties to operate on. What do you do? Lay off everyone who keeps the local gov’t working? Those people keep the sewers working, the traffic lights working, clean up the trash out of your streets. Look at the county roads. They stopped picking up the trash because half the road dept is gone.

    The employees who serve the public did not create this economy. Don’t suggest you solve it on their backs. They have families to feed like the rest of us.

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  10. Mike says:

    Why is it that the citizens of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County are paying the taxes that fund the city and county governments and are not able to use the services of the agencies on many Fridays of the month? Why are we made to “feel the pain first” for something the elected officials did, not managing the city and county budgets. This is a very sinister way of saying, “it’s your fault and now you are going to pay.”

    I wonder if the city decided because of the budget deficit they would not provide public safety how long they would stay in office or out of court? The residents of Santa Rosa need politicans who lead and resolve problems and not be vendicative with the citizens.

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  11. City Worker says:

    Let’s be clear, this was not a case of employees ‘stepping up,’ but rather one of employees being blackmailed by the City – take the one day a month furlough, or have a worse deal imposed on you. Non-safety employees have already paid most of the cost of the City’s financial hardships, it is time that Police and Fire employees also share in some of the pain…

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  12. Mary says:

    When will the Santa Rosa City Council wake up and start to cut the union and management employees to match the needed budget deficit? Keeping the staff and closing the offices 3 or 4 days a month just inconveniences the citizens who pay the taxes that fund the city. It also demoralizes most of the city employees with pay cuts instead of actually getting rid of people and the people who remain keep their wages and showing up for a 40 hour schedule.

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  13. Brian Brown says:

    Hang in there SR City employees. You are all in my prayers.

    BB

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