Trims beyond the fat into muscle and bone
Many of the more vocal members in the community have been calling for it for nearly a year, and last night the Mammoth Lakes Town Council unanimously conceded to their wishes by approving $902,146 in employee cuts, mainly among upper management. This new cut in employee positions closes the $717,000 deficit that the Town was trying get rid of before adopting its 2010/11 budget. It also leaves nine more positions in the Town vacant.
The positions chopped were a Principal Planner at $156,251, an Engineering Assistant at $107,543, a Building Official at $155,875, the Assistant Town Manager at $218,381, a Police Officer position that is currently vacant at $139,121, an Accounting Assistant II at $81,565, the Human Resources Director at $181,005, and the Finance Director at $198,863. The contract with the Town Attorney was also cut at $50,000, however Town Attorney Peter Tracy is set to retire in December anyway.
Additional costs that surround these cuts include adding an Administrative Services Director that will combine the duties of Human Resources Director and Finance Director for a cost of $94,967. The delayed implementation of these layoffs has already cost the Town $281,491 and the consolidation study that was outsourced to help come to this conclusion cost $10,000. These costs bring the total savings to the $902,146, nearly $200,000 more than Council actually needed to save.
Prior to taking its vote the Council opened the podium up to members of the public. Former Town Clerk Anita Hatter explained that she was disturbed by these drastic cuts not because she was worried about her friends who were on the list to be laid off but because she was worried about what it would do to the Town and its services.
“You have stopped cutting the fat and are cutting into the muscle and bone now,” she said. “An action like this will have consequences that will last for years.” Hattar added that the last time Council made rash decisions the interim Town Manager ended up granting the largest pensions for employees which is why she was able to retire at 53.
Leigh Gaasch also asked Council to reconsider the cuts before them. It seemed, however, that only Mayor Skip Harvey was swayed in the slightest by the two women’s pleas.
“I’m not sure we have explored all our options and I don’t support the layoff direction,” Harvey initially said. However, after the other four members of Council expressed their desires to still move ahead with the layoffs Harvey backed down and conceded to create a unanimous vote.
“This is a budget balancing exercise and an opportunity to reorganize the town’s structure,” Council member John Eastman said, and Mayor Pro Tem Jo Bacon agreed. To which fellow Council member Rick Wood added, “Change is not to be feared. There will be gaps but over time it will be OK.” Wood also stated that this was not a new or rash decision but had been developing for some time.
“These are not fun decisions but they have to be made,” concluded Council member Matthew Lehman.
Council then began to shuffle papers and move on to the next agenda item. Gaasch, however, returned to the podium before they could move on to scold them for not even thanking the employees they had just laid off.
“Make them feel like they are of some value and thank them for the work they have done,” she said. Council proceeded to the next agenda item anyway.
For more on the rest of the Sept. 1 meeting see this week’s printed issue of The Sheet.