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Why Nearly 800 City Employees Are Getting Pink Slips Before Council Gives the OK

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Dave Cook, the city's chief financial officer, revealed at Wednesday's city council budget briefing that more than 700 layoffs included in City Manager Mary Suhm's cost-cutting recommendations would begin sometime in August. Yet the affected employees' jobs are intact until the council votes September 23 on a final budget.

"We're not presuming approval by any means," Cook tells Unfair Park.

The 785 unlucky folks will receive formal reduction in force (RIF) notices sometime in August, he explains, because the fiscal year begins October 1, and the city is required to give employees 45 days' notice before terminating their jobs. Cook says any of the positions that the council votes to restore will simply have their notices revoked, and if the council lays off additional employees, those will occur 45 days from when the decision is made.

Cook several times has attributed the bulk of the city's $190 million deficit to declining revenues, including an expected 5 percent decrease in property tax revenues. He says the city hasn't found a predictable or consistent pattern while tracking county tax appraisals over the years -- only that most of the change happens in late July, just before the tax rolls are released.

"From what little we can see, we're still on track for that 5 percent decline," he says. "We sure hope it's not that much, and we hope it's not worse."

He dismisses the city's approximately $250 million in debt and interest payments as contributing to the shortfall, claiming its bond rating is evidence that it's not overburdened. "It's not getting to a point to where it's upside down compared to where it's been historically," he says.

We also probed Cook about the proposed $21.7 million in budget savings introduced Mitchell Rasansky, who said at Wednesday's meeting that Cook didn't agree with some of his suggestions. "We'll be responding to the full council on each of those points, so I don't think I should now," he says.

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