If the Board of Finance chooses to slash the city budget to cope with the sagging economy, city department heads warn of layoffs, furloughs and reductions in service.
Peggy Sokol, the director of the Beals Senior-Community Center, said that a 5 percent cut would require her “to let go of all my part-time employees,” bringing an end to the daily woodworking shop, a ceramics class, life story classes and even the coffee shop
She said the impact would be devastating.
“The seniors will be up in arms if they lose any of the programs we currently have” and if cuts go even deeper it would become “impossible to run this department and care for this building.”
Sokol’s is just one of about 20 memos submitted by department heads to Mayor Art Ward outlining how they would deal with a 5 or a 10 percent budget cut.
Ward ordered municipal supervisors to prepare the memo after finance commissioners insisted.
Ward said Monday that city leaders “need to be realistic” in assessing what’s possible.
“If you cut too many personnel, then you can’t deliver the services,” the mayor said.
Taken together, the memos paint an ugly picture of what could happen if the worst case scenarios for the next budget come true.
The Police Department, for example, said that to pare spending by 10 percent, it might need to lay off as many as 24 people, according Capt. Daniel McIntyre.
McIntyre’s memo, though, urges fiscal overseers to take a more prudent course and try to reduce the department’s numbers by attrition instead.
The tax collector, Teresa Babon, said she would have to cut a clerk’s position that she considered “absolutely necessary.”
She said that losing a position would mean longer lines for taxpayers and slower processing of checks for the city.
In the Park Department, a 5 percent cut would ax two summer maintenance positions and prevent aerators from being installed along Memorial Boulevard, said Park Director Ed Swicklas.
A larger cut would force the department to give up on its ice skating rink, eliminate the summer concert series and make it so the outdoor pools wouldn’t open until July 1, Swicklas said.
The Water Department would need to lay off six of its 35 workers to slice its spending by a tenth, according to Robert Longo, the superintendent. It would also put off infrastructure improvements until better times.
At the library, Director Francine Petosa said that paring spending would means closing both the Main Library and the Manross branch library for two evenings a week, layoffs four part-time pages who shelve books and more.
If fiscal overseers ask for a 10 percent cut, she said, she would have to lay off a full-time clerk at each library as well as eliminating security guards.
The registrars’ office said it is eyeing a reduction in the number of polling places, a measure made possible by the new electronic voting machines.
The Community Services Department would rely on furloughs to save the necessary money, said Kit Plourde, its director. That would mean longer waiting times for needy residents, she said.
The Youth Services Department would slice programs aimed at helping at-risk young people. A 10 percent cut would likely force the discontinuation of services for 175 youths and 25 parents who need assistance, according to a memo from the department.
The Building Department said it was eyeing a range of possible steps, including furloughs, more fees and keeping the zoning enforcement officer home during night meetings where he has traditionally been available for zoning commissioners.
Fire Chief Jon Pose said there’s no way to cut even 5 percent without eliminating “basic essential services.”
Ward said that he plans to meet soon with city Comptroller Glenn Klocko and Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski “to brush up on exactly what the impacts will be with the city” if the cuts are made “so we can focus on what’s achievable” during later sessions with the finance board and City Council.
The mayor said that in a lot of cases, departments may be able to absorb a 5 percent cut while 10 percent reductions are “out of the question.”
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