South Lake Tahoe looks to layoffs, retirements to plug budget gap |

South Lake Tahoe looks to layoffs, retirements to plug budget gap

The city of South Lake Tahoe is looking at a combination of layoffs and early retirements to make up for ongoing declines in revenue.

A plan presented to the City Council on Tuesday calls for the early retirement of six employees ” including the community development director and redevelopment loan program specialist ” and layoffs of six others. Two new positions would be created to pick up some job responsibilities deemed necessary.

Overall savings would be $176,842 for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and $1.12 million next fiscal year.

No police or fire department positions would be eliminated. The city has about 200 employees.

The council approved taking initial steps toward the staff reductions, with the layoffs and retirements coming back for further review next month.

“It’s the most difficult task I’ve ever had to take on,” said Councilman Hal Cole, who serves on a council budget subcommittee.

Councilwoman Kathay Lovell thanked the employees who would lose their jobs for their service to the city.

City Manager David Jinkens noted that the city is not in such dire financial straits as other cities in California, some of which are cutting police and fire services or even declaring bankruptcy.

Still, South Lake Tahoe is feeling the pinch of the dour economy, with room tax, sales tax, and building and planning fees falling short of what had been projected for the fiscal year.

The city is facing an expected $3.1 million shortfall in its $33 million general fund budget. The council asked the city manager to chop $3.8 million from the budget.

Earlier this year, the council approved a cost-containment plan, which includes freezing several unfilled positions and eliminating most training and travel. A city-wide efficiency study was canceled, saving $125,000, and the council eliminated $335,000 that had been allocated for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Positions targeted for layoffs include a permit technician, a building inspector, an economic development manager, an economic development specialist, a legal assistant and an engineering intern. Some of the economic development functions would be moved into the redevelopment agency. A new legal secretary position would replace the legal assistant.

Other options to save on employee costs include furloughs or pay cuts. But those would require the city to reopen contracts with labor groups ” something the labor groups would likely be reluctant to do, Jinkens said.

Layoffs do not require the approval of labor groups, Jinkens said. However, state law requires the city to review proposed layoffs and their ramifications with labor groups, something Jinkens said he’ll be able to do before the council meets again.

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