As 12 town employees watch the clock tick forward toward the July 15 elimination of their jobs, union representatives, town negotiators, and a state mediator plan to meet on July 5 to discuss proposed employee concessions and private companies' bids to take over Atherton's building and public works services -- bids the town's manager has called "really good and very aggressive."
Interim City Manager John Danielson said the town is still evaluating cost savings and other factors represented in the 18 bids the town received by contractors offering building inspection, plan checking, street and park maintenance, and arborist services. But even though the analysis is incomplete, he said, it's clear that, under some of the bids submitted, "the cost savings (to the town) would be substantial."
Teamsters union representatives continue the fight to save the staff jobs by offering cost-cutting plans of their own. Beginning with a proposal that would save the town an estimated $167,000 in employee costs, the union put forward a second offer of concessions that it estimates will save the town at least $300,000.
That proposal includes incentives for early retirements; 10 days of employee furloughs; and employee payment of their entire contribution to the retirement system (PERS), plus a portion of the town's contribution. (The town now pays the employee contributions in addition to its own.)
In late May, 13 employees were given pink slips, to be effective June 30. But the town in early June agreed to postpone the layoff date until July 15 while talks with the union continued.
The town faces a structural deficit of about $856,000 this fiscal year if the current employee structure is retained. The deficit is due to falling property tax revenue and rising employee costs.
The number of employees who might be shown the door on July 15 has dwindled to 12 with the retirement of public works supervisor Troy Henderson, who has worked for the town for 35 years. His last day on the job was June 30.
Reaction to the planned layoffs and outsourcing of services has been mixed. At the City Council's last meeting, on June 15, former Mayor Malcolm Dudley urged the council to survey residents to see if they're willing to pay a higher parcel tax to retain public services in-house.
According to his calculations, the current $750 annual parcel tax would have to be raised by $350 a year to eliminate the structural deficit in the budget, he said. "I don't agree there's a fiscal crisis," he told the council. "Any time you can solve the problem for $1 a day, it's not a crisis."
After the meeting, Mr. Dudley told the Almanac that if the council allows the layoffs and outsourcing to proceed without a resident survey, he and other citizens will launch a ballot initiative drive to assess support for paying higher parcel taxes.