Annapolis lays off 33 workers

mayor blames 'budget crisis'

City also eliminates 52 vacant positions

March 06, 2010|By Nicole Fuller | nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Annapolis laid off 33 city employees Friday to address what Mayor Josh Cohen called the city's "unprecedented budget crisis," and he warned that more layoffs loom without union concessions.

Seventeen of the 33 are contract workers and 16 are civil service employees.

In addition, the city has eliminated 52 vacant positions, bringing the total number of job reductions in the city's work force to 85.

Cohen had announced in February that layoffs and furloughs were likely as the city faces a deficit of at least $2.6 million in the current fiscal year and a projected shortfall of at least $8 million for fiscal year 2011.

The job cuts are expected to save the city an estimated $5 million.

"This is a very sad day for the city of Annapolis family," Cohen said in a statement. "Good people, many of whom have dedicated their careers to the city, have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

"The law requires [that] the city have a balanced budget," he said. "I deeply regret that the immense size of the deficit that I inherited could only be closed through layoffs."

The layoffs come as Cohen, a Democrat, prepares to deliver Monday his first operating budget to the city council. Cohen's proposed budget assumes that the city's four unions - which represent most of the city's 720 employees - will make wage, health care and retirement benefit concessions during contract negotiations, saying that he hopes this will be the only round of layoffs.

The union contracts for city workers end in June. Union officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Alderman Kenny Kirby said Cohen should have sought other money-saving options and called layoffs during a time of such economic hardship "unacceptable."

"I think we need to exhaust every effort before layoffs," said Kirby, a Democrat. "I don't want to take bread off anybody's table."

The city employees who lose their jobs will be paid through March and have access to job counseling, Cohen said.

Days before the layoffs, Cohen, who became mayor in January, was provided with executive security through the city Police Department. While such security is commonplace for executives in municipalities across the state, Annapolis mayors have not always used the service.

In a statement, Police Chief Michael Pristoop said that though there had been no threats against Cohen, he urged Cohen and the city's chief administrative officer, Doug Smith, to accept the security protection.

"As a lifelong Annapolitan, I understand how unusual this step appears," Cohen said in a statement. "I did not request it, but my police chief strongly advised it, and I am deferring to his judgment."

No overtime will be used on the security detail, and Cohen spokesman Phillip McGowan said he expected that the protection would be temporary, calling it "a situational measure."

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