Cutting costs by closing City Hall’s doors

Shutting down City Hall and sending workers home for 10 days next year may save enough money to avoid a new round of staff cuts.

“Instead of more permanent layoffs, this is a tool that a number of cities are using to balance budgets,” said Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

Following the lead of King County, the city may institute unpaid staff furloughs to fill growing budget gaps. The City Council on Wednesday will consider approval of a mayor-backed agreement with city workers that would shut down all nonessential city services for 10 days spread throughout the year, typically on Fridays.

Under the proposal, the city would save an estimated $371,000 in 2009 and $387,000 in 2010.

“That’s significant,” Kordonowy said. “It means we don’t have to cut an additional four employees.”
The mayor’s preliminary 2009-10 budget already calls for the elimination of 12 fulltime positions to help offset declining city revenues.

The mandated furloughs would also make City Hall less efficient and responsive to residents.

“It does mean service at the city won’t be at the same level or as convenient,” Kordonowy said.

The city administration has negotiated the furlough proposal with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union representing city staff.

Union stewards working at City Hall declined to discuss the proposal. The union representative leading negotiations with the city did not return calls on Monday.

Similar worker leave proposals are under consideration by the city of Seattle, Snohomish County and Washington state.