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Zephyrhills City Council hesitates at proposed layoffs

ZEPHYRHILLS — The idea of cutting three city employees didn't sit well with some City Council members Monday night when a second draft of the proposed city budget was unveiled.

With the sour economy, city officials are working with a shrinking budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The council adopted a tentative millage rate of 6.14 — $6.14 in tax per $1,000 of taxable property — but city officials drafted a budget assuming a lower tax rate of $5.99 per $1,000 of taxable property.

The jobs on the cutting block are a civilian position with the Zephyrhills Police Department, an undisclosed administration job at City Hall and a fire management position, which has been mostly vacant since the employee took sick leave several months ago.

These proposed layoffs could save the city about $140,000 next year, minus severance packages, which haven't been calculated yet.

Several council members expressed discomfort in laying off workers.

"This year we're having to make some difficult decisions about losing somebody," said council member Manny Funes. "I feel really bad about it … we've got to do what we've got to do."

"I think we need to look at other areas besides staff," said council member Tim Urban.

"Do you have any suggestions?" said City Manager Steve Spina. "I mean, we've looked at this two or three times. We've cut down to the bone. … We're the only community I know that hasn't laid people off yet in at least three counties."

Mayor Cliff McDuffie was glad the picture wasn't any worse. "I think it's fantastic it's just three, not 30," he said.

The city has kicked around the idea of offering an early retirement package to some staff members and enforcing four unpaid furlough days next year.

Other proposed cuts are eliminating employee cell phones, reducing overtime for the city Fire Department and Police Department, and putting tuition reimbursement on hold, except in the case of two city firefighters who are in paramedic school.

City officials tabled the topic until the next City Council meeting, on Aug. 23. The first public hearing on the city budget is slated for Sept. 15.

Ebony Windom can be reached at ebony.windom@yahoo.com.

In other news

• Sunday alcohol sales: The council agreed to revisit the city's ban on alcohol sales before 1 p.m. Sunday, which is two hours later than the surrounding area. Mike Mira, of Mainly New England Restaurant, wrote a letter saying that beer and alcohol sales starting at 11 a.m. Sundays could help numerous city businesses, including his.

• Open-container ban: Council members postponed the second reading of an ordinance that would ban the public use and possession of open alcohol containers on public and nonpublic property. Council members Manny Funes and Tim Urban questioned the enforcement of the ordinance if it applies to residential areas. City Attorney Joseph Poblick agreed to revise the ordinance to limit the ban to certain geographical areas, specifically the city's downtown and all city parks. City officials plan to discuss the ordinance at the Aug. 23 meeting.

Zephyrhills City Council hesitates at proposed layoffs 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 8:44pm]
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