Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 2:51 pm | Fair 57º


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City, Union Reach Agreement On Cost-Cutting Concessions

The measures, including unpaid furlough and suspended vacation cash-outs, will prevent layoffs for now and save Santa Barbara $1.5 million

After several months of negotiations, the city of Santa Barbara has reached an agreement with a union representing many city workers that, for now, will keep layoffs at bay.

Kristy Schmidt, the city’s employee relations manager, said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that a tentative agreement was reached last Friday with members of Local 620, a bargaining unit of Service Employees International Union. The union represents more than 3,700 public employees in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and has been working with the city throughout its budget talks.

The concessions include 104 hours of unpaid furlough and suspended vacation cash-outs. Those measures alone would save $1.5 million citywide and pump $781,000 back into the General Fund. The move would restore positions for 11 employees and avoid involuntary layoffs. The agreement will save the jobs of two librarians, one public works employee and employees paid by the General Fund.

The deal would be effective only for the 2010 budget year, however, and is subject to change if finances continue to deteriorate. In the meantime, “no one will be left without the opportunity for continued employment in this bargaining unit,” Schmidt said.

News of the compromise came as members of the council and city staff worked through deliberations of the city’s budget for 2010. The city is facing a $10.8 million deficit.

City Administrator Jim Armstrong said the city is seeing a delay in revenues, such as sales and bed taxes. Those numbers have been dismal, and when sales tax revenues for June are tallied next week, the results are likely to be just as grim.

Concerns about the state budget also loom. The state proposes taking gas taxes from the city and use them to pay off infrastructure bonds. “That’s of serious concern to us,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said positions that come open at the city will need to stay vacant as a cost-saving measure until the economy begins to recover. “There’s some glimmer of hope,” he said. “But at this point, it’s just a glimmer.”

Finance Director Bob Peirson also expressed chagrin at the state’s proposal to take local gas taxes. He said the city had budgeted, for this year, $1.9 million of that money to go toward streets, and the state is talking about taking 75 percent to 90 percent.

“For us, that would mean the loss restricted street revenue between $1.4 and $1.6 million,” he said.

The City Council has been working its way through the budget, discussing cuts to make and listening to public comment, since the budget was released in late April. It is expected to approve a final budget June 23.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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