Jeannette layoffs fail to save enough money
Jeannette City Council will meet this week to consider taking more drastic actions in an effort to save money.
Council members have been telling residents and employees for some time that the financial situation in the city is dire and recent moves to enact pay cuts and rolling layoffs have not had the desired effect.
Bill Bedont, city finance chair, planned to hold a meeting to discuss personnel this week. He said the rolling layoffs have simultaneously not saved the city as much money as council had hoped and has negatively impacted the services the city offers residents.
“I don't think we're saving quite as much as we thought,” Bedont said. “We're paying more in police overtime and we're not providing the services we need to in this building (city hall). We need to make drastic changes. We need to put our heads together and come up with new ideas.”
Mayor Robert Carter said the police overtime increases were due to two officers being off of work due to injuries at the same time two officers were on rolling layoffs and one officer was on vacation. Carter said that situation shouldn't repeat itself.
But the need to increase overtime costs to cover for the rolling layoffs is an example of the problem, Bedont said, and could be repeated as summer vacations begin in a few months. City hall business is also impacted due to less secretarial help. With two men making up the entire street department, who can be called to the sanitation department whenever there is a call off, there are days when there are no employees available to do street work.
“We need to step back and re-evaluate things,” said Bedont. “There needs to be something drastically done. If it (layoffs) was going to hit our projected goals, we'd find a way to live with it. But if we're still going to fall short (in savings) we need to look at other alternatives.”
In addition to less savings than hoped, Bedont said the city is dealing with tax collection issues. The city is talking to various companies that offer delinquent tax collection services.
“If you owe taxes to this city, we're coming after you one way or the other,” Bedont said. “If we had all of the back taxes we would not be in the situation we're in.”
Another tax collection issue, according to Bedont, has to do with the tax office. After budget cuts impacted his staff, city treasurer Sam Casino Jr. sent tax bills to all property owners — a change from his practice in previous years of sending those bills to mortgage companies for payment from owners' escrow accounts.
At the March council meeting, Casino said because mortgage companies sell loans so often it requires continual updates to his computer system — something he said he doesn't have the time to do with limited staff. Casino also said the change hadn't impacted tax collection this year. As of the March meeting, $169,881 had been collected compared to $162,828 collected by the same date last year.
Bedont said this is no longer the case and the change has begun to negatively impact incoming revenues. As of the April meeting, Bedont said $318,000 had been collected compared to last year's figure of $404,000.
“We're behind by him changing the way he does this,” said Bedont. “He had to send out duplicates and spend more in postage. We're not happy about it. I'm sure the school board won't be happy about it, they're behind by about $120,000. What we're going to do to correct it, I don't know. Hopefully it gets chased down. It's extremely frustrating to be three months in and be behind $80,000. It's not a good way to start the year.”
Council plans to refinance a 1998 bond and Bedont said that will free up “a substantial amount of money starting next year.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.