Santa Clara city leaders approve layoff plan


City leaders started to meet with employees this summer to lay out the budget problems, and three of the 10 bargaining units have already agreed to concessions -- those three include all the managers. A couple others are starting to negotiate, but the rest haven't decided what to do yet -- it's a struggle between giving up pay, or losing jobs.

"People are worried about their jobs. They're worried about their co-workers' jobs, and people are worried about serving customers," said Santa Clara Employees Association President Voula Brown.

Brown heads up the Santa Clara Employees Association, a group of 250 employees stressed about their future. It's one of ten city employee bargaining units being asked to give up scheduled pay raises, accept pay cuts and take unpaid furlough days.

"Some of them are office specialists, typist clerks. Some of them are librarians, communications dispatchers, records specialists. It's spread out in all city departments," said Santa Clara Deputy City Manager Carol McCarthy.

Santa Clara City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to support a layoff plan that will move forward in January, if all employees do not agree to concessions. It's facing a $5 million deficit this year and $13 million next year.

"It's a serious situation for the city. We've never faced such a fiscal crisis. Our reserves have never been at suck rock-bottom levels. There really is no place to go, but to the employees," said McCarthy.

The city says it needs all employee unions to accept just over a 5 percent pay cut or 12 days of unpaid work furloughs next year. The plan also calls for forgoing any scheduled pay raises. If not, about 80 people face layoffs, which is about nine percent of the city's employees.

"No one wants to give concessions. We all want to just go ahead and do our jobs and do the best we can -- that's always the primary focus," said Brown.

But longtime employees like Brown, dedicated to public sector work, feel it's a double-edge sword -- workers worry about preserving personal finances, but they're also concerned that if it leads to layoffs, services will suffer. For example, things residents enjoy like parks and libraries, and services residents rely on, like police and fire.

Santa Clara is, like many other local governments, suffering from recent years of revenue losses from declining property sales and business taxes. The layoff plan is set to take effect in early December, with layoffs beginning January 8, of course any concession will change the number of layoffs.

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