Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Cities on the West Coast are also struggling with layoffs

Two weeks ago, Mayor Nutter announced that he will eliminate more than 200 positions because City Council failed to pass his proposed soda tax. We're not the only city struggling to deal with these kinds of tough issues. Out on the West Coast, major cities and small towns are considering furloughs, layoffs, and other measures to save money.

Last week, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson proposed a city budget that relied mostly on spending cuts and a reduction of positions to close a $483 million budget gap.

On Tuesday, Newsom proposed a $6.48 billion city and county budget, which calls for 350 layoffs and significant spending cuts. Overall, the budget eliminates 855 positions, bringing the total number of city employees to about 26,000. The number of layoffs was expected to be as high as 425 to help close a $483 million budget shortfall.

Newson's budget would bring city staffing levels to the smallest number of city workers in the past 12 years. It's also the third budget in the past three years that has reduced overall spending. For San Francisco, which prides itself on progressive public policies that often have steep price tags, the change has been a dramatic shift.

However, the problem goes beyond major cities. In Oregon, the City Council of the small city of Keizer will decide tonight on higher utility fees or layoffs of municipal employees.

Budget committee member JoAnne Beilke said the franchise fee changes would add $13 more per household per year, which she said was a small sum to avoid layoffs in public safety. About three-fourths of the general fund is allocated to public safety.

Does that sound familiar? The fee proposed by City Council in Keizer is just one example of the type of steps being taken to deal with the budget deficit. Another California city, Rancho Cucamonga, is going to furlough workers to save money.

The planned furlough - to effect about 350 full-time employees - along with attrition and a dip into the reserves, will help the city meet its fiscal challenges without affecting services to residents, Jack Lam told the City Council at a budget workshop last week.

It seems like there isn't a single part of the country where local government isn't struggling because of the economy. But though the challenge may be universal, the ways cities are choosing to deal with the problems are not. There's such a wide variety of available strategies -- like staffing cuts, furloughs, and tax increases -- that each municipality winds up trying something slightly different, even if the problem is the same. In a few years, it will be possible to compare the responses and evaluate the effectiveness of these various approaches.

Follow us on Twitter and review city services on our sister site, City Howl.