City of Bellingham announces more layoffs

The Bellingham Business Journal

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike announced on Aug. 17 that 17 Bellingham city employees will lose their jobs in six weeks, as part of city budget reductions.

Pike said a total of 32 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) have been identified to be eliminated in this round of reductions. Half this total includes vacant positions and newly identified retirements, and the rest were those 17 whose jobs will end on Sept. 30.

These reductions, plus additional new non-personnel cuts, are expected to save the city approximately $3.3 million in 2010, Pike said.

Many employees who received layoff notices work in the library and parks and recreation services. Pike said as the result, hours of operation are likely to be reduced at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center and the downtown and Fairhaven libraries, if the library board concurs. Other personnel cuts will have a range of service impacts, he said, that will be analyzed in more detail during the City Council’s 2010 budget deliberations.

“I am very sorry we are in this situation. I wish to thank all city employees for their commitment and expertise. We are weathering these difficult times as well as we are thanks to the hard work and dedication of each and every employee.” — Dan Pike, mayor of Bellingham

This round of personnel reductions is in addition to the elimination of 13 positions in 2008, the elimination of 20 positions – including five layoffs – earlier in 2009, no-wage-increase agreements in 2010 with two firefighter unions, and no 2010 cost of living increases for non-union employees. Other steps taken to align expenditures with declining revenues have included delaying or canceling dozens of capital projects, and reducing or eliminating funding for various programs and outside agencies.

Unfortunately, Pike said, these latest cuts are unlikely to be enough to balance the city budget for 2010 in light of continued shortfalls across most city funds. He said another round of reductions may be announced in October if revenue trends continue their current course.

“We are watching trends carefully, and every month we’ve been disappointed in what we see,” Pike said in a statement. “Revenue from most sources is coming in below even our very conservative projections. While the general fund has seen challenges for the past year, in the last six months most city funds have fallen short of projections, making it important that we reduce costs citywide, not simply in general fund expenditures.”

Pike noted that ripple effects from a year of nationwide economic downturn continue to weaken our local economy, with layoffs among large local employers just now having an impact locally.

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