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Largo anticipates wage freezes but fewer layoffs

Fewer than five city workers will lose their jobs as the result of next year's budget cuts, city officials said this week.

That number "could very well be zero by the end of the fiscal year," said Amy Davis, the city's Office of Management & Budget manager, because workers will be able to interview for vacant jobs.

Largo plans to cut the equivalent of 10 full-time positions. But fewer workers face layoffs because four employees took early retirement and separation incentives and others interviewed for different jobs within the city, she said.

"I'm trying to save these jobs, because I know, in the future, we're going to need these people," City Manager Mac Craig said a couple of weeks ago while discussing the city's efforts to stave off layoffs.

One way the city has been able to avoid drastic personnel cuts is by instituting a hiring freeze since the beginning of the year. If positions weren't critical, they weren't filled, Craig said.

Today, the city plans to release its proposed $138.8 million budget for 2009-10, which begins the fiscal year Oct. 1. But some budget details were discussed Monday night at a Finance Advisory Board meeting.

The city staff is proposing to cut about $3.5 million from the city's general fund, which is projected at about $61 million. The general fund gleans more than 20 percent of its revenue from property taxes, and about 75 percent of the general fund goes to personnel costs.

The proposed budget includes a wage freeze for all city workers. But that's only a done deal for Largo's 233 non-union employees.

Cutting raises for union workers will be more complicated.

The city plans to negotiate a new contract soon with one of its unions, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2427. Largo will not offer a raise to firefighters during negotiations, said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert.

The city is also talking with its other two unions, which have current contracts, to see if they will agree to wage freezes.

"If we can't come to an agreement, then we will probably implement furloughs next year," Schubert said.

The staff also plans to offer city commissioners two options for the property tax rate next year.

One keeps the current rate of $3.84 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The other increases the rate to $4.28 per $1,000 of taxable value. That would generate about the same revenue next year as this year.

If the rate goes up, most residents won't pay more in city property taxes because most property values have gone down, said Kimball Adams, the city's finance director.

City commissioners will approve the budget in September and residents will be able to weigh in on the budget at two public hearings that month.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or 445-4155.

Fast facts

. Today, the city plans to release its proposed $138.8 million budget for

2009-10, which begins the fiscal year Oct. 1.

. The city's general fund is projected at about $61 million.

. Staff proposes to cut the general fund by about $3.5 million.

. The city plans to cut the equivalent of 10 full-time positions.

Largo anticipates wage freezes but fewer layoffs 06/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:55pm]
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