City lays off 13 full-time workers

DOWNEY - Thirteen additional full-time city workers will lose their jobs June 30, a direct result of a growing annual budget deficit that already tops $4.2 million, city officials announced last Friday.A dozen city employees lost their jobs in February, but those cuts were blamed on the state's elimination of redevelopment funds. City workers received layoff notices April 12. The layoffs affect employees in the IT , library and finance departments, said city manager Gilbert Livas. Scott Pomrehn, executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, also was laid off. His duties will be assumed by other space center staff. "We're very strategic in how we do this," Livas said. "We see where we can cut costs without affecting service delivery or public safety." Livas said he does not anticipate additional layoffs "but I don't know what the economy is going to do." "To say [future layoffs] are completely off the table wouldn't be accurate," he said. In a statement, Downey officials said the "severity of the situation forced the city to take action without the involvement of the community and bargaining units." "We're meeting with staff and bargaining units to try to maintain city service levels and fiscal health while protecting against future job losses, and we're asking for patience while we work through these changes," Mayor Roger Brossmer said in the statement. The statement also said Downey has "implemented several cost-containment measures," including a moratorium on non-essential purchases and 5 percent operational cuts across all departments. Assistant city manager John Oskoui is concurrently serving as public works director to save the city money, Livas said. "We can't do that forever but for now while we're in a difficult position," Livas said. "It was agonizing to say goodbye to several talented, long-term employees as a result of the loss of Redevelopment funding and we thought it would stop the bleeding," said Councilman David Gafin, who serves on the city's budget subcommittee. "But this budget deficit is just too big to cover through reserves alone." Councilman Mario Guerra, who predicted employee layoffs at his town hall meeting last October, said he was "saddened and disappointed" about the job losses. "I have worried about this day coming for several years," Guerra said in a separate statement. "These are tough decisions that affect so many people, family and lives. But they are unavoidable to sustain our City and we have tried to minimize disruptions to our residents as much as possible. "Our top priority will always be public safety and quality of life for our citizens," Guerra continued. "We are still in a safe financial position due to our reserves but we cannot continue in the direction we have been heading. Many, many issues have contributed to this decision."

********** Published: April 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 01