Reports of imminent layoffs of Taft Police officers and other city employees are greatly exaggerated and very premature, city officials said Wednesday.
City Manager Craig Jones adressed the reports that started after the city notified the unions representing Taft PD officers and many other city workers that the city has discussed layoffs as a possibility in the future.
No layoffs are planned right now, Jones emphasized.
The bargaining unit representatives were told informally – by phone and email – that layoffs in the future are a possibility, only a possibility at present.
But that could change if the city's financial position doesn't improve.
That has led the city to start planning for the worst case scenarios – no income from the CCF, which has been closed for a year now, and a continued economic slump that is affecting the city's general fund revenue.
"We see a storm coming," Jones said. "If we don't prepare for the storm, the weather could take us down."
So city staff and the council have reached the conclusion that layoffs can't be ruled out.
"In our budget discussions we asked a question: Is there a potential for layoffs? Everyone agreed there was," he said.
That led to the contact with the unions
"Any time there's a potential for layoffs or a change in the city work environment...the city wants to keep the employees and unions informed," Jones said.
The city has no budget yet for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, but projections show the city is facing a deficit of over $700,000 for the current year on top of a deficit of more than $1 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
So, Jones said, the city has to consider the potential for layoffs.
It won't happen without action by the city council.
The council has met in closed session before each meeting for months discussing the situation. No action, other than direction to city staff, has been announced.
That action apparently included directing Human Resources Director Lonn Boyer to let the unions know that is going on.
Boyer was scheduled to meet with the unions on Thursday, and he emphasized that formal notifications have been made.
If layoffs and cuts do become necessary, they could be made in areas that don't seem to make sense.
City programs like Taft Area Transit are funded by grants, not general fund revenue, and all money the city receives for transit must be used for transit program.
That leaves general city employees, most of whom are in the SEIU bargaining unit, and Taft Police, who have their own bargaining unit, vulnerable if layoffs become a reality.