Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

City wise to delay layoffs and consider alternatives

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Normally we would not applaud Tucson City Council members for delaying decisive action, but their hesitancy to lay off workers in this economy is commendable.

Yes, the financial forecast is grim and the city budget situation is dire.

Yes, difficult decisions must be made.

And yes, perhaps City Manager Mike Hein’s recommended 30 or so layoffs would result in more city “efficiency,” as he says.

But as we at the Tucson Citizen know all too well, losing a job in this economy is an especially terrible fate.

Every layoff sends ripple effects through the local economy – and those effects hit city government, too.

So the council members are wise to continue their work on other options, such as 12-day furloughs.

City leaders should contemplate other creative alternatives as well to save money without eliminating jobs.

Employees should be offered unpaid, voluntary sabbaticals, with their jobs reserved for them until they return.

Also, most workers undoubtedly would prefer to accept a sizable pay cut on a temporary basis rather than lose their jobs permanently.

Or, some portion of employee salaries could be deferred for a year while the economy recovers (let’s hope).

And if some employees’ jobs in the development arena no longer are needed, as Hein reports, then the city should try to devise a way to transfer those workers to other vacant positions.

In that way, when the construction industry picks up again – and it will – the city will not have to hire and train new employees to perform permitting and other development-related functions.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich recently told the Citizen, “Obviously I’m concerned about the high-quality staff we have throughout the Planning Department and making sure we don’t lose the benefit of their guidance in any way.”

The federal stimulus bill also “could fill in some of these blanks,” Councilwoman Nina Trasoff recently noted. “It’d be fabulous if it does. The city has done a good job of poising itself with shovel-ready projects if it does.

“I hate to see anybody lose a job.”

So do we. Director Fred Gray’s ideas to reduce services in the Parks & Recreation Department would preserve full-time jobs but eliminate part-time ones.

He would cut the summer swimming season by three weeks, close three pools, reduce adult sports leagues by half and eliminate up to 40 leisure classes.

We urge the council to continue carefully calculating its strategies. If the federal infusion of funds can eliminate the need for layoffs, we hope the money will be used in that regard.

Finding a job these days is akin to the needle in the haystack, so the city should order layoffs only as the very last resort.

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