City council passes budget unanimously, 19 lose jobs |

City council passes budget unanimously, 19 lose jobs

Dylan Silver

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from it’s original version. The list of jobs is now correct. And Ray Zachau has worked for the South Lake Tahoe fire department for six years.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – With frowns around the packed room, the South Lake Tahoe city council passed its 2011-2012 fiscal year budget, calling for the elimination of 25 positions within city government.

“Sometimes you have to swallow the bitter pill, but then you’re healthy,” said councilwoman Claire Fortier after the meeting.

The budget, which has been in the works for more than a month, was passed unanimously by the council Tuesday afternoon. The primary aim of the budget was to close a $5.2 million projected deficit.

Layoffs include one assistant engineer, an engineering manager, the storm water coordinator, three fire dvision chiefs, two heavy equipment operators, a housing and redevelopment assistant, two street maintenance workers, a legal assistant, a public works inspector, two recreation supervisors, one recreation coordinator, two senior accounting technicians and one special events coordinator. Vacant positions that will no longer receive funding include fire chief, firefighter, police officer, police sergeant and two maintenance workers. The layoffs, combined with the elimination of six vacant positions, saved the city $1.7 million, with 60 percent of that coming from the cuts to the fire and police departments.

“I just can’t believe the council is this irresponsible,” said Ray Zachau, who lost his job after working for the South Lake Tahoe fire department for 6 years, after the meeting. “The fire department won’t have any management. I don’t know how you’ll run a department without any management.”

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Zachau said he would now look for work.

More than 10 members of the public came forward, including some whose jobs hung in the balance, to speak in front of the council.

“We are a tourist-based economy, but there is a community here,” said Matt Laster, one of the city’s legal assistants, whose job depended on the vote. “The parks and recreation department is without a doubt one of the most important parts of our city.”

After the public comment period was over, the council stressed they had no other options to close the deficit.

“I do not see an option,” said councilman Tom Davis. “And I’m sorry for that. But we’ve got to balance this budget.”

Councilwoman Fortier elaborated.

“We have got to invest in a city that is viable not just for its employees, but for its citizens,” she said

Mayor Hal Cole explained that among the private sector and cities across California difficult decisions were being made.

“I see no way that I can make the city employees immune to what the private sector has been going through for three or four years now,” he said.

As the budget neared a vote, Cole found a line in the budget he didn’t agree with – a $7,800 increase in the council’s own budget. Cole asked city manager Tony O’Rourke what the money was for. City Manager Tony O’Rourke said it was for travel to conferences. The mayor had it removed, citing it would set a bad example.

“If I’m sitting on the council, I don’t want to see our budget raised one dime,” he said.

Also to close the deficit, budget-makers looked to increase revenues by $1.8 million through paid parking and increases to camping, golf and building permit fees. They plan to borrow $640,000 from reserve funding and $675,00 from the general fund.