Santa Clara residents love their city for its parks, for its libraries and its low utility rates, thanks to a municipal power company. However, an economic tsunami has been building because of the recession -- it's facing a $5 million deficit this year and $13 million next year. So its 910 employees are facing a tough choice -- pay cuts or layoffs.
Voula Brown is president of the 32-member Santa Clara Employees Association.
"If you lay people off, there's a lot of stress there. People are upset; they're worried, they're fearful. They're fearful for their jobs, they're fearful for their friends' jobs, their co-workers' jobs. And they're concerned about our city and how that would impact service," she said.
An estimated 80 to 82 employees from all departments will be facing layoffs unless they give up scheduled pay raises, accept pay cuts, and take furlough days. The City Council will vote on the plan tonight.
"It's in the private sector, it's in the public sector. Everybody is feeling the pain from the last few years of the economic difficulties, so it's not really anything personal. It's something that everybody is going through," City Council member Will Kennedy said.
City leaders started to meet with employees this summer to lay out the budget problems. Three of the 10 bargaining units have agreed to the concessions. Most have multi-year contracts negotiated before the downturn. Some are due a 4.5 percent increase in pay and benefits in January.
Santa Clara residents are sympathetic.
"I feel sorry for the guys that are going to be off. Everybody's going through rough times, and I feel for them. It's bad times," Santa Clara County resident Miguel Arriaga said.
If approved by the City Council, the plan would take effect in early December, and then layoffs would begin in January.