UPDATED: Eight more city employees get pink slips

Latest update: Wed. April 8, 7 p.m.

Eight more city employees were handed pink slips on Monday as part of a second round of layoffs in less than two months.

An additional 10 employees were put on reduced work schedules.

The reductions will take effect at the end of the month.

“All departments were impacted by these actions,” said City Administrator Mark Dombroski, who made the cuts after the City Council directed him to make $1 million worth of staff-related cuts as park of a city-wide $3.6 million reduction plan to match rapidly declining revenues.

Under Dombroski’s staff reduction plan, two roads-related public works staff, a water resources engineer, a code enforcement support staffer, a planning department office specialist, a police parking enforcement officer, a planner and a capital projects manager will lose their jobs.

“It’s tough to handle. It’s tough to take,” said public works mechanic Mark Bartholomew, who will lose two coworkers from the operations and maintenance shop where he works. “Our tempers aren’t high and we’re trying to stay close.”

Bartholowmew said the two laid-off public works staff had been city employees for six and three years.

Dombroski said the cuts also impact the staff that remain.

“In a small organization like ours, the people here are not only co-workers but friends,” he said. “It does impact morale.”

Employees who will see reduced work hours include three executive staff, three planning staff, two finance staff and one public works staffer. The reduced hours amount to the equivalent of 1.8 full-time employees.

Dombroski eliminated the city’s controversial merit-based bonus pay program for department directors. Last year’s bonus payout amounted to about $30,000.

The city will continue to leave the police chief and two part-time police clerk positions open.

Dombroski plans to merge the public works director position, which is currently open, with the city engineer to create a single position.

The staff reductions add up to the equivalent of 11.3 full-time employees and will save the city almost $742,000 for 2009.

While the council had set a $1 million goal for staff-related cuts, Dombroski warned that additional staff reductions will mean significant service reductions and possible litigation if the city cannot meat its legal obligations.

“We’re getting fewer employees and fewer employees with certain skill sets,” he said.

Bartholowmew said the size of the city’s maintenance crews haven’t grown in over a decade, despite an increasing workload caused by the island’s aging roads and other infrastructure.

“We haven’t grown at the same rate as the rest of the city,” he said. “We’re as lean as we were in 1998.”

As an additional cost-cutting measure, Dombroski said he’d explore use of the state shared work program, which allows some employees to work part-time while drawing partial unemployment benefits.

Dombroski said the island’s economy has shown some signs of improving. The city recently experienced a slight boost in real estate excise tax income, which could hint that earlier conservative revenue predictions could be adjusted.

Combined with several positions eliminated in late 2008 and the six layoffs earlier this year, the city has whittled its workforce from 152 full-time employees to 124 over the last 16 months.

“The people who work here are going through a large, rapid change,” Councilman Barry Peters said. “I’ve been really taken by the amount of sacrifice by employees.”

3 thoughts on “UPDATED: Eight more city employees get pink slips

  1. Over a year-and-a-half ago the City of Bainbridge financed study, the so-called Benchmark study (costing $147,000) identified key findings among them that the city was running rich on employees by 20%. For the then staffing of 152 employees, that amounted to a carrying charge of $3,000,000 a year in employee costs ($100K per employee for pay, benefits etc). Of course COBI Mayor and Council ignored the study and let it gather dust on the shelf of do-nothing studies. Had the Mayor and Council acted on the findings, that would have been a significant overhead reduction ($3M) and would have lessened the depth of our current problems but COBI leaders saw staff reduction as off limits.

    Oh, by the way, another prescient finding in the Benchmark Study was that COBI Council was dysfunctional.

    COBI is not a social-service agency designed to keep people employed. Cut COBI staff to the point our budget is sustainable. Don’t grow government. If you have too much money, cut taxes.

    See YouTube call for Mayor K’s recall. (double click the link) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz-e3n

  2. The Benchmarking study was by no means ignored, either by members of the Council or by citizens offering advice. I’m not saying this to justify the Mayor’s reluctance to make deep staff cuts earlier, but the fact is that many economies were imposed — and some were achieved by attrition — before the latest embrace of necessity.

    I see nothing to celebrate in this news. The loss of Ross Hathaway is especially regrettable.

  3. Jon Quitslund states: “he Benchmarking study was by no means ignored, either by members of the Council or by citizens offering advice. I’m not saying this to justify the Mayor’s reluctance to make deep staff cuts earlier, but the fact is that many economies were imposed.”

    Yes, Jon, attrition is one way to bring the COBI roster in alignment to what the Benchmark Study called for. However, COBI Mayor and Council first ignored the study for 10 months then finally began the attrition option. The problem with that course of action was we went a year at the richer staffing level. The study was clear on how rich our staffing was (and how low our output was for 152 people). A young scholar at Captain Blakely Elementary could calculate what that year plus of 20% over staffing cost the taxpayers.

    Now Dombrowski is having to cut 8 or 10 people at a whack to get in alignment with what we should have reached a year ago. A stitch in time saves nine.

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