LEWISTON —The City Council voted Tuesday night to lay off 10 city employees and eliminate another 12 vacant positions, cutting $750,000 from the 2010-11 budget.
Councilors met in executive session to discuss offers from the city’s seven labor unions designed to stave off staffing cuts. The cuts were not enough, according to a statement read by Mayor Larry Gilbert.
“The concessions proposed totaled less than half of the $750,000 needed to avoid layoffs,” Gilbert said. “Some unions offered more than their fair share. Others offered less. One bargaining unit offered no concessions whatsoever. Most of the concessions offered were contingent on the city’s agreement not to lay off additional staff. “
Councilors then voted 4-2 to authorize City Administrator Ed Barrett to begin staff reductions immediately.
“While we appreciate the thought and effort by our employees, we must move forward with staff reductions that will produce a tax rate acceptable to the council and that takes into account the economic circumstances of our community and our residents,” Gilbert said.
The proposed budget calls for $43.6 million in spending, a slight decrease compared to the current budget. Even with the cuts, the proposed budget would increase property taxes by about $150 on a $150,000 home, because of a reduction in state revenues.
Councilors have spent their last few meetings reviewing budget cuts and savings that would trim pennies off the property tax rate. Cuts would include fewer open hours at the Lewiston Public Library, cutting support for festivals and special events, reducing the number of polling places to one and cutting the Police Department by four positions.
None of those options had much council support.
That left a staffing cut of $748,085 as the biggest budget-reducing option. It will cut the property tax rate by 41 cents per $1,000 of property value — about $61 a year for a $150,000 home.
Councilors were hoping that the unions representing city employees would agree to forgo scheduled raises for the year, saving enough money to stave off the staff cuts.
Barrett said the work councilors had done over the past few weeks had helped matters. Tuesday’s vote would cap the city’s tax rate increase at 50 cents, from $24.90 per $1,000 of value in the current budget to $25.40 next year.
“I think councilors took these discussions extremely seriously, and I think they looked very hard at having to lay off any employees,” Barrett said.
He said he would begin meeting with department heads and employees right away, first notifying those affected by the cuts. He would not say publicly which departments would lose positions until after he had met with the employees themselves, then notified city councilors.
Barrett said he expects to make the cuts public later this week.
“I think we have enough information now to begin drawing up a final document and working toward a final public hearing,” Barrett said. That meeting is scheduled for May 18.