Livingston approves four layoffs as part of budget vote

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comAugust 21, 2012 

— A handful of employee layoffs were approved Tuesday during the Livingston City Council meeting, as members also passed a final budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Several residents and city officials spoke at the contentious meeting. The City Council chamber was packed with residents and city employees. A mobile billboard outside City Hall read "no police layoffs."

The council voted 3-2 to approve the budget and the layoffs. Council members Theresa Land and Frank Vierra voted in opposition.

Four employees will be laid off: community development director Donna Kenney, street supervisor Jim Rightsell, public service officer John Mucci and police public assistant Nora Becerra.

Seventeen people spoke against the layoffs during Tuesday night's meeting, including Kenney and Mucci, who offered specific examples of issues that could affect the city without their positions.

Those in attendance erupted in applause as residents spoke in favor of the four employees. Many asked for the item to be continued and reconsidered.

Audience members were vocal, at times making comments and asking questions out of turn. At one point, Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza asked the police chief to remove an audience member for interrupting the council after public comments were closed.

'Tough decisions'

City manager Jose Antonio Ramirez said all city positions were analyzed several times, and "tough decisions" had to be made to balance the budget.

General fund projections had shown a $190,000 deficit, and city leaders wanted to address that figure this year to prevent future depletion of general fund reserves, which have been exhausted to 30 percent of expenditures from more than 100 percent in 2002.

The city has about $1.5 million in reserves, which equates to three months of operating expenses for the city. Administrators didn't want to dip into those reserves anymore.

'Can't push it off'

"At this moment in time, we can't push it off further," Ramirez said.

Other employees will have to fill the voids left by the layoffs, he said.

"Everybody is going to have to do more with less," he said, adding that the city likely will contract out for the community development position.

The final budget is balanced and doesn't dip into reserves, Ramirez said.

Livingston's budget is expected to be revisited in December or January, during the city's midyear budget review.

Reporter Mike North

can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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