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Council imposes city staffing cuts

First to go is the human resources director, and staff support in the police department.

To trim personnel costs, the City Council shed a city position considered key by many staff.

The council voted this week to reduce overall staffing levels in 2007 back to 2005 levels. First to go was the city’s human resources administrator.

The council is also eyeing the information technology department for more near-future eliminations.

“The reason is very simple,” said Councilman Nezam Tooloee. “Recurring expenses are rising higher than income. The lines have already (been) crossed and we have to undo that. One of the big drivers of these recurring expenses is the level of staffing. We need cuts. We can’t keep delaying that.”

Tooloee proposed cutting the human resources position, presently held by Kathleen Grauman, because the job’s functions “can and should be performed by other people in the organization.”

The position’s duties, which include administrating employee payrolls, benefits, hiring and contract negotiations, will be passed on to department heads, Tooloee said. The cut could save the city an annual $70,000 when it’s cut from the payroll in March.

“In my experience as a businessman, I’m not convinced that an organization of this size needs this position,” he said.

The cut stunned some city employees, who find they’ll have to pick up human resource’s slack.

“I’m disappointed about the council’s decision to eliminate this position,” said City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs. “My job is to give the best professional advice to the council and make policy happen,” but the council’s decision “puts at risk” many legal and labor issues handled by the human resources administrator.

“We were all really surprised,” said Police Chief Matt Haney. “In a city with 140 employees, it’s hard to imagine not having that position.”

The additional duties will likely mean a larger burden on department heads, Haney said. His department also suffered a staffing setbacks, as the council voted not to renew a full-time evidence technician and crime analyst position.

Public Works Director Randy Witt said he’ll have to bring himself and other members of his staff up-to-speed on many of the human resources administrator’s duties.

“I’ll now be handling (Labor & Industry) claims and all kinds of other forms, and I don’t even know what they look like,” he said.

Witt characterizes the human resources job as a “central position” familiar with labor laws, legal requirements and complex personnel issues.

“Those are important (duties) and should be handled well,” he said.

The council also plans to weigh the costs and benefits of cutting the six-member information and technology department. But Briggs is concerned that outsourcing may hurt service, especially as the city transitions to a new computer operating system that will require on-site training and assistance.

“When you outsource you don’t have the same sense of ownership and responsiveness,” she said.

The council will continue its 2006 preliminary budget deliberations at 11 a.m. on Monday in the council chambers.

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