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City pink slips go out
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To stave off looming budget deficits in the Ceres budget, city leaders issued pink slips Thursday to 11 city employees, four of which are in public safety.

Another two positions that had not been filled were also eliminated.

The layoffs came swiftly as part of an immediate City Council directive to reduce the city's current expenditures because of falling revenues. The city found itself faced with a deficit of $559,664 for the current budget year. City finance director Sarah Ragsdale, noted that if the city doesn't decrease spending, deficits of $2.1 million may be expected in the next budget year and $4.2 million by the 2010-11 fiscal year.

City layoffs were unavoidable since approximately 87 percent of the $20 million general fund is spent on labor and benefits. The cut jobs will equate to a $1.13 million savings to city coffers.

City Manager Brad Kilger gave the 11 workers their two-week notice on Thursday but also put them on immediate administrative leave with pay "in the best interests of the city, staff morale and the affected employees."

"This was very painful," said Kilger. "It was a decision not made lightly."

Kilger said city revenues - particularly sales and property taxes - have been falling dramatically brought on by economic conditions. Those revenue streams make up a major portion of the city General Fund, which is used to fund city functions like public safety, parks, and recreation activities.

"We're going to have to be reorganizing our priorities and really looking at how we're going to be providing the services," said Kilger. He said Ceres city operations have traditionally run lean "with fewer staff per capita than most similar sized cities."

Kilger noted, too, that it will be several years before the city sees revenues begin to grow again. "All staff, including myself, will need to shoulder greater responsibilities."

More cuts will need to be made to pare down the budget deficit that loomed into view midway through the budget year, said Kilger. He noted that each department was asked to submit cost-cutting ideas and provided "an excellent response." Those ideas will be reviewed, considered and possibly taken up by the council.

Among those issued pink slips were Planning Manager Barry Siebe. Two other positions eliminated within the Community Development Department are that of Planning Technician, and Engineering Technician I. Amanda Loucks, a part-time clerical aide in the Recreation Department, was also let go. In the Administrative Services Department, three jobs were given the ax: That of a finance manager, administrative clerk and a temporary clerical aide. A maintenance worker in the Public Works Department was also eliminated. A management assistant in the City Manager's office was also cut.

The city also eliminated two positions that were not filled - that of Redevelopment Housing coordinator, and Human Resources assistant.

No cuts have been made among sworn police officers and firefighters. However, there were cuts made to police support staff.

"I've lost 20 percent of my support staff in police," said Chief Art deWerk, "which will have a significant impact to process the police reports, citizen assistance at the front counter and it will slow down some response time in some instances."

Gone are two community service officers and community relations officer Enrique Perez. Perez managed the Neighborhood Watch program as did trouble shooting with neighborhood issues.

A police records clerk was let go, bringing the number from four down to three. DeWerk said the losses mean longer waits for the processing of reports, and citation sign-offs and other business at the headquarters.

"It's a very big blow to the Police Division in particular," said deWerk, "but the good news is we haven't lost any sworn personnel."

At a time when some cities are issuing de Werk's department has retained the 51 authorized sworn officer positions.