The city of Lakewood will lay off as many as 12 employees to help balance its $34 million budget, under the city manager’s plan.
After a year on the job — much of it spent analyzing the city’s finances — City Manager John Caulfield discovered areas where Lakewood could save money. One of those was reducing the city’s 241-person full-time workforce.
Two managers will be cut, along with a financial analyst, administrative and office assistants, and information and technology staff. The position of a police lieutenant who is retiring will also remain unfunded.
The decision was not made lightly, but with improvements in technology and changing priorities, the layoffs were necessary, Caulfield said.
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“Our staffing levels since 2004 have not changed,” he said. “We need to adapt to the times.”
In total, the city’s 2015-16 budget would have 20 fewer full-time equivalent positions. Some are already vacant or soon to be vacant, and won’t be filled.
Caulfield said the savings will amount to $4 million over the two years.
He met with the affected employees at the end of last week and sent letters to the city’s collective bargaining units as a courtesy. The employees can stay on until the end of the year.
The layoffs were made public Monday night at the Lakewood City Council meeting as part of the city’s biennial budget presentation. The council has the final vote on Caulfield’s budget proposal.
“I think that John’s brought to light the fact that we had the ability to maintain the current level of services in a more efficient manner,” Mayor Don Anderson said Saturday in a phone interview.
The layoffs were not a surprise to council members. Caulfield has updated them throughout the year about the city’s finances.
That’s a welcome change from years past, Anderson said.
“When I first came on council, the checkbook wasn’t always balanced,” he said. “Now we have excellent financial reporting.”
In August, Lakewood was listed by the state Auditor’s Office as one of 57 municipalities in the state that showed signs of declining financial health over the last two years. Lakewood made the list because it had declining or negative fund balances during audits in 2011 and 2012.
It also used money from other funds to balance the general fund in 2011, and its general fund expenditures exceeded revenues a year later.
“We’re at that tipping point, quite frankly, where we can’t do that anymore,” Caulfield said. “We won’t be using one-time dollars or reserves to pay for programs.”
The city also won’t spend more than it brings in. Instead the city will build back its reserves, which dropped from $8 million to $1.3 million in recent years. A city of Lakewood’s size should have reserves amounting to about 12 percent of its budget, Caulfield said.
His 2015-16 budget will restore the city’s reserves to $4.3 million, he said.
While the proposed budget calls for the reduction in staff, the public shouldn’t expect to see any cuts in service levels. They also won’t see new taxes or fees, Caulfield said.
In some areas, such as parks and road maintenance, people will actually see an increase in service, Caulfield said.
Since 2007, the city hasn’t implemented its chip seal program that’s supposed to maintain roughly 8 to 10 miles of roads a year. That will resume in 2015. Part of the funding will come from the $20 car tab renewal fee the council approved last month.
The proposed budget also calls for more seasonal help to maintain Lakewood parks and the return of portable toilets to parks where they were removed, Caulfield said.
The new budget also calls for the consolidation of the city’s three maintenance divisions.
“The good news is this will put us on good financial footing and then we can build from there,” Caulfield said.