NEW PORT RICHEY — Fifteen city workers learned Friday that their jobs are on the chopping block.
As part of the proposed budget cuts for next year, nine full-time employees and six part-time workers could see their jobs disappear. Two other positions would go from full-time to part-time. City Manager John Schneiger also announced that nine unfilled positions would either be eliminated or frozen, cutting a total of 24 positions and $947,796 in salary and benefits.
If City Council approves the cuts, the affected employees' last day would be Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Schneiger said the department heads informed the employees who are facing layoffs. Each one received a letter stating the jobs losses are due to a "fiscal crisis" New Port Richey is experiencing.
"Please know that this recommendation was not made lightly. Whenever considering reductions in force the decisions to make them are painful," Schneiger wrote.
In recent weeks, Schneiger has said publicly that the city's impending economic crisis would likely mean layoffs. New Port Richey owes substantial debt on a couple of redevelopment sites, while the city's property tax base took an 11 percent plunge this year and two electric utility funds are bringing in less money than expected.
The layoffs are part of a proposed 2012-13 budget that City Council members received Friday. The spending plan is down from $49 million to $43 million, according to Schneiger.
The city was able to reduce operating costs by about $1 million, but a balanced budget could only be obtained through the layoffs, Schneiger said. He said with the city showing a $17 million budget shortfall over the next five years, drastic measures were essential.
"It's very painful, but I don't know of any other way," he said of the job cuts. "We worked long and hard on a multitude of ways to avoid it, but after five years of cuts that have us to the bone there just wasn't anything more to cut other than people."
As a result of budget reductions and job cuts, Schneiger said city residents should be prepared for services to be affected.
He said the city is looking at making cuts to programs, and everything is on the table, from reducing debris removal services to closing swimming pools at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center during certain parts of the year.
Schneiger said he wants the community's input on how to fix the city's financial situation and encouraged residents to attend a series of budget workshops in July, starting with a presentation July 10 by Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells.
Schneiger will present the proposed budget to City Council at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 5919 Main St.