Merced City Hall office hours changing in August

Merced City Hall and the Merced Civic Center will have new office hours starting in August. The changes are a reflection of the ongoing downsizing of city staff.

City Hall offices at 678 W. 18th St. will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other city buildings will maintain current hours. The basic 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. employee work day will not change, only the building hours at 678 W. 18th St.

The city said in a press release that the change in hours will allow the reduced City Hall staff to concentrate on all of the behind-the-scenes tasks required for the City to function. These include preparing the agendas and minutes for the City Council and 15 boards and commissions that must meet the stringent timelines and requirements of the Brown Act and other state laws.

The Finance Department, as just one example, has to make vendor payments, process receivables, bill state and federal agencies for grants, file documents and prepare for audits, process paychecks and perform other behind-the-scenes work, in addition to maintaining counter hours and handle customer inquiries by phone, email and the Internet.

The phones will also remain off to the general public, with calls going to voice mail until 10 a.m., with some exceptions, such as the Inspection Services department which already keeps early phone hours. The Finance Department counters will remain open during the lunch hour, but other offices in the City Hall/Civic Center will continue to be closed from noon to 1 p.m.

Recent budget cuts have resulted in major decreases in the staffing levels of some departments, notably fnance, support services, parks and community services and development services. In June, the city laid off 36 employees, and in the last four years it has eliminated more than 120 positions. Inside City Hall, the full-time staffing levels have decreased more than 80,000 hours in the last five years. That doesn't factor in temporary staffing, which was eliminated due to budget cuts. While staffing has decreased, there has not been a corresponding decrease in workload.

Notices of the new hours have been mailed out with the utility bills and are being posted at counters and office doors. The new hours also are being posted at other city buildings. Notification is being provided in English, Spanish and Hmong.