Council tables decision on job cuts

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LEWISTON — City councilors delayed making a decision Tuesday on a layoff proposal that would cut as many as 20 city jobs.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to give Lewiston’s six unions two weeks to come up with alternatives to job cuts.

“Try to work it out,” pleaded Rep. Michel Lajoie, D-Lewiston, Lewiston’s former fire chief. “You have a goal.”

The cuts were supposed to save the city roughly $748,000 in salaries and benefits, City Administrator Ed Barrett said.

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The designated jobs are in “every department and every level of the city government,” he said.

A preliminary list of job cuts, seen only by Barrett and three other administrators, includes jobs in the police and fire departments, general government and in Barrett’s office, he said.

City councilors were scheduled to either approve or deny that list, without seeing either the names or the positions to be cut.

Some councilors, particularly Renee Bernier and Stephen Morgan, said they were uneasy about voting on cuts that they could not see.

If they had them, so would the public, Barrett said. He worried that people would hear that they lost their jobs from people outside their workplaces.

“In the public sector, there is no good way to do this,” he said. “None.”

Councilors declined to pass a motion that would have given them a list of job titles without names, arguing that too many identities might have been inferred. Instead, they leaned toward giving the unions a chance to come up with alternatives.

Morgan said he had been approached by several union members, who offered up possible savings.

Barrett is expected to begin talks with union leaders immediately. The issue is slated to come up at the council’s next meetings, scheduled for May 4.

“Maybe a couple more weeks will give (Barrett) the time he needs,” Mayor Larry Gilbert said.

Councilors are reviewing a draft 2010-11 budget which calls for $43.6 million in spending, a slight decrease compared to the current budget. Even with the budget cuts, the proposed budget would increase property taxes by about $150 on a $150,000 home.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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