LORAIN — Eighteen city workers clocked out for the last time Friday as the city laid off employees in an effort to stem the flow of red ink.
“Obviously, it’s very difficult,” Mayor Tony Krasienko said. “If we didn’t have to absolutely do this, we wouldn’t be doing it.”
In addition to Friday’s 18, two additional employees in the city’s Engineering Department are retiring at the end of January and won’t be replaced, said Ron Mantini, city auditor.
The layoff notices were sent in November, but a lengthy process of “bumping” — city workers with more seniority move into other positions and push someone else onto the layoff list — delayed the final day for employment.
The city is expected to reap a net savings of $1 million, Mantini said, after the city spends around $500,000 in unemployment claims, health benefits and separation pay comprised of unused vacation time. Most of the savings will be in the general fund, he said.
Lorain is struggling with an estimated $2.5 million deficit because of reduced revenues throughout the year and the need to advance money from the Utilities Department to pay the bills, which counts as an expense for 2009, Mantini said.
Krasienko said he couldn’t speculate about additional layoffs if revenues continue to fall and is instead concentrating on ways to bring people back to work.
“We’ll know once the full budget gets packaged together whether we have the ability to maybe bring some employees back,” Krasienko said. “We’re looking at some additional ways to bring some back that will have another revenue source to pay for their salaries.”
One example is a federal stimulus project to repave a portion of Broadway in which the city can bill its inspection work and be reimbursed via the federal dollars. That translates to more revenue, which would allow the city to bring back someone in the Engineering Department.
“It’s almost impossible to run our Engineering Department with four people and do most of the construction projects that are planned for 2010,” Krasienko said. “Every employee that is being laid off is an essential member of a team that provides service to the citizens.”
Mantini also hopes to collect at least $1.8 million in additional revenue from the reduction of the income tax credit passed by City Council last month.
Unless something drastic changes, seven firefighters also are expected to get pink slips soon, Krasienko said, adding that five police officers’ jobs were saved through a federal staffing grant that will pay their salaries.
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