Saturday, March 1, 2003

City employees dodge layoffs

But not everyone is celebrating the moves

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

None of the 48 Cincinnati employees who were supposed to be laid off today because of city budget cuts will be forced out on the streets after all.

The 48 employees whose jobs were eliminated for 2003-04 - plus five others whose jobs were cut since December - mostly landed elsewhere.
• 24 moved to other departments.
• 8 moved to vacancies in the same department.
• 7 accepted demotions.
• 7 resigned.
• 4 retired.
• 1 moved to the city manager's office.
• 1 remains in position pending disciplinary action.
• 1 remains in position to complete a project.
Cincinnati City Council eliminated 108 positions in December as part of an effort to close a $35 million budget deficit. Sixty positions were already vacant, leaving 48 employees to lose their jobs by March 1.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie said Friday that a combination of unexpected retirements and resignations helped open up opportunities for the layoff targets - mostly mid-level managers and other white-collar workers - to move elsewhere. But she warned that city workers may not be so lucky in the future.

"You can do that once, but to the extent we have to make cuts in the future, you will find that those vacancies will no longer be there," she said.

Not everyone thinks the lack of layoffs are completely good news.

Councilman John Cranley, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he doesn't want anyone to be laid off. But he does want to reduce the size of city government - a move that he said the bureaucracy is resisting.

"What kind of jobs are we valuing? It seems like we value bureaucratic pencil-pushing jobs, and not the jobs that provide the basic city services," he said.

Nine of the laid-off workers ended up in the city utility departments - Water Works and the Metropolitan Sewer District. Cranley said the city needs to be careful not to shift operational costs away from the taxpayers and on to the utility ratepayers.

Mayor Charlie Luken said the transfers are still more evidence that the bureaucracy can be reduced even further - though he, too, is glad no one's losing a job.

"When put to the test, it's amazing how creative and hard-working the bureaucracy can be in saving itself. I just wish it were more up to the task in providing customer service."

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