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Media Coverage
Job Cuts Considered To Pare Richmond Budget Shortfall
January 29, 1998


Thursday, January 29, 1998
Section: news
Page: A03
Scott Andrews

RICHMOND Some City Council members said Tuesday they are considering laying off workers as a way to close a $3.1 million deficit in the city's main operating budget next year.

The comments, made by council members Nat Bates and John Marquez during a meeting to study the financial crisis, were the first public acknowledgment of support for the drastic measure. No vote was taken.

There was no reaction from officials at the city's largest union, Service Employees International Local 790.

They met with top city administrators Wednesday to discuss ways to tighten the budget.

Although no majority on the nine-member council emerged in support of layoffs, there was little opposition to the idea Wednesday.

"I always dread talking about layoffs because that kind of starts a negative tone, but I am already starting to look at that," said Marquez, who is pro-labor.

City Finance Director Marla Taylor presented other ways to deal with the budget shortfall, which comes as property tax revenues have declined while salary and benefit costs have increased.

She proposed:

*Keeping some unfilled positions empty.

*Offering a bonus of two extra years' seniority to employees willing to retire. The offer would increase employees' pension amounts by 4 percent of their base salary.

*Considering cuts in Police and Fire Department budgets.

Also on Tuesday, the City Council made final its decision to merge another fund with the general fund. The bookkeeping maneuver is expected to put an extra $1.4 million into the general fund, cutting the projected deficit from $4.5 million to $3.1 million

Bates came out strongly in favor of layoffs, calling them the only way to balance the budget.

He compared the city's past budgetary practices to those of the West County Unified School District, which went bankrupt in 1991.

He implied that poor leadership from former City Manager Floyd Johnson had caused the city's crisis. At least four other council members shook their heads as he said that.

"Pointing fingers are not going to help the situation," Mayor Rosemary Corbin said.

Councilman Tom Butt blamed the city's port and marina for causing much of the budget shortfall by requiring grants from the city's troubled general fund.

That earned him an angry retort from Deputy City Manager Isiah Turner, who oversees the port.

He said it no longer gets a general fund subsidy.

"I wish that all nine of you would just keep your facts straight and confer with us before you get on TV and distribute erroneous information," he said.