EV Trib Article-Mesa Plans on Cutting Pay (10.19.08)

November 19, 2008 – 8:29PM

Mesa plans on cutting workers’ pay by 2 percent

Sonu Munshi, Tribune

Along with a “significant reduction in workforce,” all Mesa employees face a 2 percent reduction in their base pay effective Jan. 5, 2009, City Manager Chris Brady told all city workers in a letter e-mailed Wednesday.

Mesa plans to cut city workers’ jobs, pay

Brady also will propose to the City Council this morning a plan to shift employees to a work schedule of four, 10-hour days instead of the current five, eight-hour days.

Brady’s letter came just one day before a critical budget meeting with the council, where the city manager will, for the first time, give a public presentation about the city’s financial status and plans to deal with an unprecedented revenue shortfall this fiscal year.

Brady aims to reduce personnel costs by $6.8 million in the current fiscal year, which began in July, and by about $14.3 million next fiscal year.

That means city employees will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment or increase in pay based on performance, which were budgeted for the current year. Also, salaries of sworn police officers will not be raised to bring them in line with the market rate.

Part of Brady’s letter states: “The City’s reliance on sales tax has had a significant negative impact on the budget and the revenue shortfall continues to increase in light of a receding economy. Faced with these dramatic and historic shortfalls, we must respond by looking at new approaches for the delivery and administration of services. These recommendations will have significant impacts on the residents who receive these services and will especially impact many of you. The dramatic decline in tax revenues requires that the implementation of these recommendations occur beginning with the new calendar year 2009.”

Broadly speaking, the city will consolidate services where possible and plan for “new service delivery models in some departments.”

Without specifying, Brady noted that some programs will be eliminated.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith on Wednesday termed the city’s readjustments, which include layoffs, “a human tragedy because of the people involved.” Ideas such as the work schedule shift, which, if approved by the council, could start by February, will be a work in progress, he said.

“When you go to a change like that, there will be a period when you figure out how to work best,” Smith said. “If it doesn’t, then we’ll adjust it based on feedback from the public and employees.”

Smith said that based on other cities that have adopted this model, “residents tend to like the early or later hours to go to the city for services and were willing to sacrifice the Friday availability.”

Mesa suffered a $5.4 million dip in actual sales tax revenue compared with what was projected between June and September this fiscal year. The city’s budgeted sales tax revenue for this fiscal year is $147.2 million.

Mesa police and fire union presidents have both expressed concern about the proposed changes to their respective departments.

Mesa Police Association President Fabian Cota has said the changes, which include pulling traffic units from the streets, for instance, to shift to patrol duty, are moves that will hurt their “ability to protect the public from DUI drivers.”

Bryan Jeffries, president of the Mesa United Firefighters Association, has said they have problems with part of the proposal, which will change the fire department’s response model. Jeffries said that move “will really unnecessarily compromise public safety for critical responses like strokes and fires.”