UPDATED: City staff get pink slips

The city of Bainbridge Island laid off six employees as part of a larger $2.3 million batch of planned cuts to keep pace with sharply declining revenues.

“Our cash levels have dropped to extremely low levels and our current revenues have seen dramatic decrease in the last few months,” City Administrator Mark Dombroski told the City Council during a meeting on Wednesday. “We have to take action now.”

The layoffs, proposed hiring freezes and other labor cost-cutting measures will help the city save about $1 million in 2009. Three employees in the planning department, two in public works and one in information technology were given termination notices this week. They are scheduled to leave in March.

“Unfortunately, the current economic reality has made (layoffs) unavoidable,” Dombroski said.

Most of the layoffs would impact the city’s building and development services, which has seen a falloff in activity as the real estate market slowed last year.

The city is aiming for additional cost savings by halting some building projects and reductions in various city services, staff training, advertising and public outreach.

The city made substantial cuts in staff levels last year through the elimination of empty and contract positions. With the layoffs, the city will have cut its staffing levels from 152 to 134 in less than 12 months.

Council members expressed support and regret for the staff cuts.

“The painful reality is we have a financial crisis,” Councilman Barry Peters. “We have to take painful steps.”

Councilwoman Debbie Vancil spoke to the 20 staff gathered meeting.

“These are hard things to hear, but I don’t think they’re a surprise,” she said.

Victor Cienega, a public works employee for over 16 years, said the layoffs sent a shudder through the ranks. He predicted more staff cuts loom ahead.

“Everybody’s concerned,” Cienega said. “This is the first time in all my years that anything like this has ever happened.”

Paul Miller, a public works employee and union representative, asked the council to consult with staff on ways to tighten the city’s belt.

“I don’t know where this is going to end, but please don’t leave staff out. We can be part of the solution instead of just layoffs.”

Miller also asked the city to narrow its budget and “get back to basics” to avoid further staff cuts.

Councilman Bill Knobloch said more cuts are needed to boost the city’s emergency and contingency funds.

Speaking to Dombroski, Knobloch said: “I appreciate what you and staff are doing, but we need more.”

6 thoughts on “UPDATED: City staff get pink slips

  1. Trust the City will also use this opportunity to rid itself of some of its poorest employees who reside in the planning dept. Our red headed bearded malcontent should be #1 on the list!

  2. Ken, for those employees that are members of the union (which is the majority) you don’t get to pick & choose whom to fire. It is based totally on seniority.

  3. While job cuts are never pleasant, COBI paid $147,000 for the Benchmark Study. The study identified the fact the COBI had 20% more staff than comparable cities and had lower-than-average production out of them. As long as COBI was flush with taxpayer cash, the issue was not a priority. However the increased personnel were costing us $3M per year. Imagine what that $3M could be used for today in taking care of core missions and keeping the COBI doors open during normal business hours.

    COBI Mayor and Council are responsible directly for this mess. Let’s now make any mistake about that.

  4. HST-
    Understand your comment and it is this type of Union stranglehold that is exactly what is driving our education system to the brink also-that is specifically tenure a type of seniority. So you are saying we are stuck with the redhead bearded trouble maker who operates from his own agenda?

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