NEW PORT RICHEY — City Council members found themselves faced with the human cost of looming budget cuts as an employee whose job has been recommended to be cut made a passionate plea for the board to reconsider.
Stephanie Porter-Krahn, a billing and collection administrative assistant who has worked for the city for three years, told the council Tuesday night she believes her job was put on the chopping block because of her title, without consideration for the work she actually performs.
She doesn't just answer phones or mail letters. She processes all of the city's business tax receipts, rental permits and parking fines, among other duties. Porter-Krahn said she is also the only employee trained to handle the city's foreclosure registry.
She urged the council not to make "hasty" decisions that will not only hurt employees and their families, but also the city.
"I urge you to look past job titles," she said.
Porter-Krahn's speech came after she and 14 other workers learned Friday their jobs were proposed for elimination in the proposed budget City Manager John Schneiger submitted to the council.
The recommended cuts hit most city departments, including finance, library, development, parks and recreation and public works. Nine full-time employees and six part-time workers face layoffs under the plan, while nine more unfilled positions would either be eliminated or frozen. Altogether the job cuts would save $947,796 in salary and benefits.
Schneiger told the Times last week that services had already been "cut to the bone" so layoffs were the only way to balance the budget. New Port Richey faces a $17 million deficit over the next five years.
The city owes substantial debt on a couple of redevelopment sites, while its property tax base took an 11 percent plunge this year and two electric utility funds are bringing in less money than expected.
"Obviously, it's been a challenging and difficult budget," Schneiger told the council Tuesday as they discussed a series of upcoming public meetings on the budget.
Council members made no comment on specifics of the proposed budget, but pledged a thorough review would be done before a final vote.
"We'll be going into this in excruciating detail," said Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe.
Porter-Krahn said she will remain very involved in trying to save her job.
"I'm extremely angry and frustrated," she told the Times. "I think it's totally uncalled for. I bend over backwards for this city every day."
After the meeting, council member Bill Phillips said he understands Porter-Krahn's frustration and holds out hopes that some of the jobs can be saved by finding ways to cut in other areas.
"When you walk around City Hall you see pretty quickly that all the employees have the same passion she has for her job," Phillips said. "So it's tough."
Marlowe said the situation makes him "livid" but without cuts the city could be facing bankruptcy in the coming years.
"Real people and real faces are going to be affected. I think it stinks," Marlowe said. "But the alternative is too grim to consider."