Santa Cruz moves to 4-day workweek

June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Santa Cruz, the city is taking a dramatic step to deal with the latest budget crisis. The goal is to save jobs and city services. Some changes are taking place at City Hall and that will impact workers and residents.

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Life in Santa Cruz is not as carefree as it looks. In fact, the roller coaster at the Beach Boardwalk is nothing compared to the wild ride at City Hall.

"We've had to cut programs and we've had to eliminate positions. We're trying to look for new forms of revenue, but we've gone to our bargaining units and said 'You know, with your help we can lessen the blow,'" says Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Mathews.

City employees agreed to help in a big way. Instead of working five eight-hour days, they will work four nine-hour days, in effect taking a 10 percent pay cut. For many it won't be easy.

"Without that money, I'm going to be losing for those hours. That might be the money that I have to pay for food for my kids, so it's going to be kind of hard for me," says Uvaldo Naranjo, who has been working for Santa Cruz for 14 years.

Naranjo admits a pay cut is better than job cuts. The city says employee concessions will save $4 million and 40 jobs. Most city offices will now be closed every Friday. That means less time for getting various permits and paying bills.

"It could interfere at times, if you don't plan well. However, I think in most cases it shouldn't be a problem," says Casey Swendiman, a Santa Cruz resident.

To protect public safety, police and fire personnel are only giving up two hours a week. While no one likes the schedule changes, the Friday furlough seems better than the alternatives.

"I really do think it is important to preserve city services and also help preserve jobs and that's what we're really trying to do here is preserve both," says Anna Brooks, a Santa Cruz employee.

This week city offices are closed Thursday and Friday as part of the Fourth of July holiday. The routine Friday closures start next week and last for a year.

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