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Sebastopol to cut general fund spending 2.3 percent

By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sebastopol city employees have agreed to a pay freeze and to contribute a greater share of pension and health care costs in exchange for additional paid time off as part of new contracts with City Hall.

The agreements, which are on the agenda for the City Council meeting Tuesday night, would save the city $242,000 and are an integral part of balancing the 2011-2012 budget.

Other proposed measures to implement a 2.3 percent cut in general fund spending include using $90,000 in city reserves and reducing by half the city’s support to the Chamber of Commerce, Community Center, Center for the Arts, Historical Society, Rainbow House, Senior Center, World Friends and REP Theatre.

“We could have balanced the budget, but it would not have been done without layoffs, significant service cuts and the reduction of reserves,” City Manager Jack Griffin said. “All employees recognize that is not in the best interest of themselves or the city. These are fair and forward-thinking agreements.”

The proposed $5 million general fund budget, which is $119,000 smaller than the current budget, also is on is the City Council agenda.

The proposed contracts cover 44 workers who are part of the Sebastopol Police Officers Association, Service Employees International Union and an unrepresented employees’ bargaining unit.

The new employee contracts take effect July 1.

The agreements implement a 36-hour work week for all but public safety employees, which means City Hall, administration services and the city corporation yard will be closed every Friday. Currently, they are closed two Fridays every month.

But the shorter work week does not mean less total pay for all workers. Workers on an hourly schedule who are represented by SEIU and an independent City Hall bargaining group will have wages increased 11 percent so their gross wages will remain the same even as work hours are reduced. Public safety employees will have an additional week of paid vacation.

Workers will pick up significantly larger portions of retirement and health care costs, and retiree health care benefits are being eliminated for new SEIU and unrepresented employees.

The five-year agreements are meant to address the continual increases in retirement and health care costs. Portions of the agreements can be reopened if financial conditions improve or worsen.

The city general fund budget does not include the $2 million sewer budget, $1 million water operations budget and $2.1 million redevelopment agency budget.





6 Responses to “Sebastopol to cut general fund spending 2.3 percent”

  1. Phil Maher says:

    Thanks LbR-

    That makes much more sense, and is what I was looking for. Still too much voodoo in the numbers that are being presented in too many budgets, but at least this one doesn’t reward people for not working, as do so many others.

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  2. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Phil – Isn’t math fun! From what I got from the story, they are currently working a 9/80 schedule – M-F 9 hrs, Friday 8 hrs, every other Friday off. In two weeks, they work 80 hrs. It would go to M-F 9 hrs, all Fridays off. So, they are going from 40 hr week to 36 hr week. This is being done without a cut in take home pay by giving the workers a small raise. The workers are giving back by paying more of their medical and retirement costs. So, workers work less time and get less take home pay. The City lowers overall costs. The workers will either need to work more to cover the lost hours, or there will be less service to the public. This is really much like Santa Rosa did, except they just laid people off. Same result, but I bet the worker morale will be higher in Sebastopol.

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  3. Phil Maher says:

    Did I miss something here? 9 working days per 2 week period, take away one more Friday, comes out to an 11% reduction in time worked. How does cutting 2.3% not equate to an actual increased cost to taxpayers of 7.7%? It appears that Sebastopol’s management needs to do a little work on their math and negotiation skills…reduced costs on paper…just not in reality. This is why failure will be the only actual solution these cities are ever going to understand.

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  4. Dan Delgado says:

    Too bad the citizens of Sebastopol were not represented at the table. Same pay for fewer hours means only continued reduction in services with no reduction in expense. And of course there will be no reduction in hourly rates when the hours are eventually bumped back up making this a win-win for the public employee unions and a loose-loose for the citizens of Sebastopol. Even if the extra pension and health costs picked up by the employees covers the cost of the hourly wage increases, you can bet that benefit will be gone as soon as the hours go back up. Looks like another short-term fix to a long-term problem.

    Griffin’s comment that “these are fair and forward-thinking agreements” does even further harm. He obviously believes the citizens of Sebastopol are not smart enough to see what’s going on and will accept whatever clap-trap he feeds them. Such pandering only contributes to the further erosion of confidence in our government officials. And while Griffin further pats himself on the back for getting a “balanced” budget, only in his mind does drawing down the reserves equal a balanced budget. What happens next year, Mr. Griffin, when that reserve is gone?

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  5. The Hammer says:

    I’ll say it again for the deaf. Same job, less pay. This is the only solution.

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  6. Partyfaithful@aol.com says:

    This general fund reduction in spending will be repeated year after year after year from now on. Everyone knows it. The party is over. Incomes are declining across the state. Housing values have fallen 18% over last year in much of CA and the property tax revenue will fall along with those property values.

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