April 23, 2010

Some Walnut Creek employees receive sad news of possible layoffs as city readies its budget

As the city gets ready to unveil its proposed budget for the next year, I've received word that some Walnut Creek employees have had some difficult private meetings with supervisors this past week to learn that they may receive layoff notices and not have jobs in the near future.

City Manager Gary Pokorny confirmed in an e-mail that these private meetings have been taking place, and provided some background on what city staff have been doing to deal with a serious drop in revenues from the recession-driven decline in retails sales and auto sales taxes.

UPDATE: According to a city report released Friday afternoon, the city needs to cut $20 million to balance its $116 million 2010-12 budget. Sales tax revenue, hit the hardest,  is expected to drop 11 percent during the current fiscal year and then  another 3 percent during the 2010-11 fiscal year. Parking meter and garage revenue also dropped 9 percent this fiscal year, and property tax revenue declined 6 percent. 

"What we have done is give a 'heads up' to a number of folks who might be facing a layoff," he said.  The city will release its proposed budget late next week and the City Council will discuss it at its May 4 meeting. These layoffs will take place, Pokorny said, if the recommended budget is approved. "We have shared this information with [employees] in advance of an actual layoff notice to give them the longest advance warning of where we are proposing to make cuts in our programs and expenditures."

Any layoff notices would not be issued until after the council adopts a budget. Until that happens, the city won't know how many people will face layoffs and in which departments.

"We will know where we will actually be making changes and then we would give written layoff notices if we need to," he said. "I say "need to" because there is yet another caveat."

The city will try to save jobs by giving employees the option of retiring by July 30, Pokorny said. The incentive is that eligible employees (50 years and older and with five or more years of service) would be eligible to receive a medical spending account to help them pay for medical insurance and medical expenses for up to three years.

With Walnut Creek facing revenue drops that take the city back to go back to 1999 levels, and the city caught in the same economic downturn that affects the rest of the country, Pokorny said the city is having to make "significant and ongoing structural change in our organization."

In attempting to draft a balanced budget, city staff were very mindful of programs that residents put high on their list  to save during a series of Community Conversations the city hosted back in the fall. Residents were asked to come up with their list of priorities, by designating how they would spend a theoretical amount of money on different programs. 

In his column in the May/June issue of In the Nutshell, Pokorney said that programs that promote "Culture, Recreation and Learning Opportunties" received 24 percent of the virtual dollars, followed by programs that serve "A Safe Community." "Economic Vitality" programs would receive 18 percent. Coming up behind were programs that support "Strong Neighborhoods," and "Transportation." One hundred seventy residents participated. 

"The budget that we are offering is a balanced approach in both senses of the word," Pokorny said. "That is, it is balanced between resources and expenditures, and we have used a mix of program cuts, restructuring, service reductions as necessary, some one-time money to ease the transition, and fee increases for services. All employees have also been asked to contribute through increased contributions to various benefits out of their paychecks, and most have seen a significant reduction in their take-home pay. And a few have been laid-off or had their jobs reduced to half-time this past year."

Pokorny added: "This process is difficult for everyone involved, it is not something taken lightly. It affects the lives and services of people living in this community, it affects the lives and jobs and income of the employees delivering the services."


Anonymous said...

sad for those people, curious what the city's budget is for flora & fauna - I swear they're switching flowers and planters out downtown on a weekly basis...

Anonymous said...

With all the other things going on and you worried about some flowers. The City keeps the Downtown area looking great to bring in revenue. As in sales tax get it! And they don't change all the flowers weekly they replace the damaged and dead ones.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

My understanding is that the flowers downtown is an effort by the Downtown Business Association.. Not the city.

Anyone know something different?

Anonymous said...

A city employee, driving a city truck, waters all of the potted plants on the sidewalks oncer per week. I once talked to the woman who has this job and she loves it. Saw her at work on N. Main just this week.

Flowers are nice but does anyone remember a few years back the flap over the $600 hanging baskets on N. Main near the City Hall?

That was in the days when the Council was spending like drunken sailors not thinking about keeping money in reserve for hard times.

Mike said...

We all see the city employees sitting in their vehicles or hanging out doing nothing, this happens all the time.
We also need to trim some of the fat in the city offices too, those people sit around wasting more taxpayers money than just about anything.

Anonymous said...

Yes we do see city workers in their trucks and we see PG&E and both EBMUD and Contra Costa water people doing the same thing. But have you ever thought that maybe they should get a lunch or a break now and then. No they don't deserve the same rights we all get after all their just servents, and they should dimonstrate their worth to us all day every day.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the real world government workers.

Jim J. said...

Soccer Mom I'm so upset about this story. I'm boiling! I'm so sick of the libraries, arts programs and other fluff in this city. If they cut a single policeman I'm going to be raising hell at every council meeting. THE #1 PRIORITY OF A LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS TO KEEP US SAFE! Enough is enough. I want to know how much we spend on police and firefighers and how much goes to everything else. Anyone that voted for the library project should be fired. As far as that 500 thing goes that's a bunch of hooey too. My wife's friend works with a city sponsored arts program and she and all of her friends went down to the city to spend "their" 500 dollars. How many regular residents do you really think participated? I say not many that didn't have a stake in city dollars.

Anonymous said...

165 participated in the $500.00 exersize. Great turn out.

Anonymous said...

Link to City budget:

33% of the operating budget is for Police.

Anonymous said...

yep 33%...and probably 60% of that is dealing with the bar scene downtown.

Anonymous said...

33%! That's ridiculous. Doesn't seem like a budget problem to me. Cut 1/3, add 1/2 of the second 1/3to the police call it a day. And S/M my wife owns a business in town. Athough I like the idea of the city subsidizing our business as a resident it's hard to sallow. Businesses pay into the DBA but the city picks up the tab for just about everything the DBA asks for. Tens of thousands for tree lighting downtown, flowers, cleanup, traffic control for events, panning etc....

Anonymous said...

This is sad. The City has been over spending for years, I recall Silva at the Parkmead Forum arguing forcefully for the library despite serious questions about costs/reserve.

No sense there......and here we are. And how are we going to keep operating it? In other words, what will be closed to keep operating it?

So now they turn it back to little city 'dog and pony' shows to make the tough choices?? What a sham.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the layed off employees will donate their time at the new library.

Civic service all the way.

Anonymous said...

In 2006 the police dept had 82 sworn officers. the poposed budget for this year freezes 5 positions which will bring the force down to 75 sworn. that was the 1999 staffing level. ask the city council if crime has gone down 16% because thats the size of the sworn staff reduction. Its not too late start going to meetings and let Cyndy Silva and the other library crazies know that the library cost us our city reserve and if we have to staff it and pay the utilities we will have to cut even more officers. Its not too late, no Police Dept cuts....

Anonymous said...

Anon7:15....Ask any city employee what they think of the library and I highly doubt (if they could candidly answer) that any of them would be willing to A: say anything nice about or B: be willing to staff it. Library is not a nice word around city hall except to Lorie Tinfow who is keeping her job because of it.

Anon. 10:34.....Right on!
A viable police force is one thing the city is mandated to provide along with street maintenance and other vital services. While nice to have, arts & leisure services and certainly city owned and operated libraries, etc. cannot be deemed as 'essential' services.

We have a great police force that is being hamstrung by a council that has never learned to live within our means when it comes to their fluffy, pet projects.

Support your local police!

Mayor Rainey was quoted in the Times today saying that budget cuts are going to be 'bloody'.

The blood will be on the hands of the council primarily because they continued to spend down reserves while watching the economy tank despite warnings from many within the community.

Ah yes, but there will be a "GRAND" opening of the library in July. Not much to celebrate as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

Vallejo, here we come!

Anonymous said...

Reading these comments makes me really said. There is more to a city than Police. If you guys are so afraid, I suggest you move to San Quentin there will be plenty of officers patrolling the grounds and look out for your safety. You can think of it as a gated community by the bay.
And to the person who thinks that 60% of the police cost is used for the bar scene in downtown you are out of your mind. I would bet the biggest part of the police work by far is domestic violence calls and I'm sure not providing any services such as cultural events, adult education, library etc. will just breed the next generation for this.

Anonymous said...

I remember an interesting article published locally during the last year. The person being interviewed noted that the easiest job in the world is to be a cynic. Why? Because you don't actually have to do anything.

Posters to blogs often have simplistic solutions to difficult problems. That's OK. They also don't have to bear accountability for the implementation of some of their ideas cast from the sidelines.

Some of the negative posters here tried to drag our police officers and other City employees into what really is a decision by residents - how to apportion City revenue to provide services to the community. In the end, the decisions are made by elected City Council members. Then we, as voters, decide whether to retain those representatives or elect others whose ideas we prefer.

The last two City Council elections have seen the new library as one of the key issues. For the most part, those who favored building the new library were elected.

It is entirely possible that new faces will enter the scene in the new election cycle and succeed in being elected. However, I doubt that those saying only public safety expenditures are legitimate would succeed, even if the election were only among police officers.

I guess what bothers me most about this discussion thread is the denigration of hard honest work by dedicated employees. The cheap shots about people "sitting in trucks" are an example of this. If you do see examples of people not doing their jobs well you always have the option of reporting them to the City. However, just to make blanket assertions of laziness is lazy on your own part.

Finally, I don't work for the City, I'm not an elected or appointed official. I do love Walnut Creek.

Anonymous said...

Can we deputize the librarians? I see a win-win here, we get the library and we get law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

Never saw a librarian packin' heat.

Anonymous said...

Anon 455: How many residents knew the Walnut Creek Library Foundation was employing Cindy Silva as a consultant when they voted for her? Do you think she has an interest in making this project work at any expense? I for one enjoy many of the services this city provides. But I also feel that public safety should come first. Something is rotten in Denmark with this city's finances in regards to funding priorities. I wish the council would figure that out. If you think the next election or two will be like the last when times were "good" you're sadly mistaken. Most of us will put our safety and property values at the front of the line.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:45,

Cindy Silva's work background, including her work for the library foundation was explained in great detail on her campaign website. The website was listed on all of her campaign literature, so it was readily available to the public.

11:45, I'm interested to hear about your expertise in government. Do you actively participate as a volunteer to improve our community in any way?

Just curious.

Anonymous said...

6:59am...Hi Cindy! Thanks for stopping by.

11:45 Brings up a good point, what I think you might be missing is that Council members are elected to represent the best interests of the community, and while the library is certainly arguable, From your (err cindy's) website.

Co-Chair, Yes! A New Walnut Creek Library Committee

Walnut Creek Library Advisory Team

Measure Q Campaign Committee

Walnut Creek Library Foundation, Executive Director

Does appear to present what looks like a vested interest that may conflict with an objective position a council member should have. As it stands a lot of people think the city over reached with the library, and now what may have been viewed as a safety net (surplus)for preserving vital services.

Finally I have to say, being a volunteer is it's own reward, it does not add any weight to the validity or the quality of the comments made. Whether 11:45 volunteers or not is totally irrelevant to the point being made.

Anonymous said...

To the poster about about moving to San Quinten prison: I guess you haven't been reading the news. They're coming to us! The state is releasing 40,000 prisoners early due to over crowding. I sure at least a few will be coming to our fine city. Maybe they can move in with the priest child molester (Kinesle?) that lives in Rossmoor!

Anonymous said...

Hey Just Curious...many choose to serve their community and fellow man quietly through charitable organizations, churches and neighborhoods. Some may not want the attention that comes with serving on various boards and committees down at city hall...then again some may crave it . Ms Silva figured a way to get the attention and get paid.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall hearing Mr. Silva was being paid for her Library work. That is disturbing. I would like more information regarding where safety funding is on her priority list. Maybe Soccer Mom could ask her?????

Anonymous said...

She lists the the library foundation as a client of her consulting company on her web page:

"Since 1980, I have owned my own consulting business -- originally Eisley Communications, Inc., now Eisley Silva Communications. My current clients include Hill Physicians Medical Group, the largest network of independent physicians in northern California, and the Walnut Creek Library Foundation."

I would think this represents a serious conflict of interest. What may be more disturbing is that Mrs Silva is seemingly either very upfront and does not see an issue with it or she just doesn't care if its out there or perhaps we are all so stupid we wont notice?

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom,
Congratulations on encouraging the trolls to spend so much time frothing.

Anonymous said...

The Council and Gary Pokorney traded in extensive services residents have been enjoying for years, and that make Walnut Creek a wonderful place to live for a library no one can afford to run, and that was voted down twice by tax payors. Great job folks! The "New Normal" should be firing the City Manager and voting in new Council members!