Council approves layoffs to offset budget deficit
By JIM LINCOLNA 6-1 vote to layoff 4-5 full time city staff members didn’t come easy for Tecumseh City Council members on Monday. Council accepted a proposal that included the layoffs, but added more funding for local street repair and maintenance in the upcoming budget year that begins July 1.Facing a deficit of $144,000, City Manager Kevin Welch presented three options to council in a work session held prior to the regular meeting. Council chose the option that will add $120,000 in additional street improvements, reduces city staff by up to five full-time positions, and adds 2-3 part-time positions to support some departments. These positions will save the city expenses for retirement and health care benefits, as well as benefits for sick and vacation time. While the staff changes will reduce overhead by $105,000 the first year and $160,000 each year thereafter, the changes will affect the hours of some operations that departments are open and available to the public.“There will be a learning curve to these changes,” Welch said. “There will likely be some unhappy people.” The changes would not, however, affect core services, although any additional layoffs in future budgets would, he said. Council member Jack Baker said it was “the most difficult” budget in the 16 years he has served on council. Baker seconded a motion by council member Pat Housekeeper to accept the option presented by Welch.“We have to make the most responsible decision we can,” said Housekeeper, noting the city needs to keep streets in the best shape as possible. Councilman Ron Wimple, who cast the dissenting vote, said “a drastic move needs to be made, but I just don’t know if I am ready to vote on this tonight.”“In the long term, the only responsible action would be to support the proposal,” said Mayor Richard Johnson.As a budget priority, the city must consider public safety first, which includes police and fire protection, and the condition of local streets. “If you don’t have that, you don’t have much,” Welch said.A public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, May 2, at 7:40 p.m. for comment regarding the proposed 2011-12 budget. By City Charter, the council is required to adopt the annual budget by the second Monday in May.