Carbondale forced into layoffs

25 percent drop in revenues causes town to cut positions

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A 25 percent drop in revenues this year forced the town of Carbondale to lay off four full-time workers Monday, including a police officer position.

The town also will impose wage cuts across the board, and employees will have to take five furlough days next year, according to a town news release.

The layoffs were unavoidable, said Town Manager Tom Baker, who also will take a 15 percent cut in salary and benefits.

"We wanted to get all our ducks in a row before we made any decisions" regarding personnel cuts, Baker said. "But it needed to be done immediately.

"It is disappointing," he said. "We have been talking to everyone in Town Hall for the last few weeks, and we met with the entire staff (Tuesday) morning to let them know what the comprehensive approach would be moving forward."

Ultimately, the drop in revenue is considered to be the new reality, leading to a restructuring of town staffing levels for the foreseeable future, Baker said.

Carbondale has seen a 25 percent decrease in revenues for 2009, including a more than 16 percent drop in sales tax revenues.

Town officials are projecting another 3 to 5 percent decrease in 2010.

"The town trustees believe the revenues they are seeing now are the new norm to work with for planning the future," Baker said in the news release.

Town officials had hoped to put off any layoffs until the beginning of the year, but the latest numbers for this year required drastic decisions, he said.

In addition to the four full-time positions, one part-time position also was eliminated.

"Remaining employees will have to take over extra duties due to the layoffs," Baker said.

In addition to the patrol officer position, layoffs included two positions in the community development department, a full-time code enforcement position and a part-time planning technician position.

The town receptionist position also was eliminated, and the public works department laid off a street maintenance worker, he said.

"Two other employees will work fewer than 40 hours per week in 2010," Baker said.

In the past several months, town trustees and staff have been considering ways to manage the shortfall and still provide all necessary services.

"It was decided that matches for one of the town's two retirement benefits will be eliminated in 2010, and every employee will take five furlough days next year," Baker explained.

Combined, that will result in a 4 percent reduction in benefits and pay for all employees, not including the larger salary and benefit cut for his own position, Baker said.

A wage and hiring freeze that was imposed in mid-2008 when revenues began declining continued throughout this year.

Four positions already had been eliminated through attrition since that time, Baker said.

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