COSTA MESA — About 213 Costa Mesa employees — nearly half of the city's workforce — can expect layoff notices on Thursday, officials said.
More than 90 firefighters, 50 city maintenance workers, 30 dispatchers and a dozen city jail staff are among those being notified that their jobs will be outsourced in six months.
"Basically, the morale is in an all-time bottom," said Helen Nenedal, president of the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn., which will bear the brunt of cuts. "I've been with the city for 30 years and morale has never been this low."
In a 4-to-1 vote March 1, the City Council approved outsourcing 18 city services, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting. Leece tried to reopen the issue for discussion at Tuesday's council meeting but fell short when no other council members supported the move.
The city is legally required to give city employees six-months' notice if their jobs are going to be contracted out privately, meaning that the city would be at least two months into the next fiscal year before anyone is laid off.
"I've said this before and I'll say it again, the world runs on a clock and a calendar," Councilman Jim Righeimer said at Tuesday's council session. "We have to have a budget ready by July 1. We have a $10-million to $15-million hole to fix."
The City Council Budget Working Group, consisting of Righeimer and Mayor Gary Monahan, recommended the layoffs as growing city pension costs loom.
The city plugged a budget gap of about $1.4 million when it dissolved a police helicopter program shared with Newport Beach.
By all accounts, no one is surprised about getting layoff notices on Thursday. Who exactly will actually be laid off in September, and who will stay on, remains unclear.
The council has not found outside contractors to replace the city workers yet, and even then, some workers who have "bumping" rights can replace less-senior employees in other, non-affected city services.
Then there's the fact that some employees will be issuing requests for proposals for their own jobs.
"They're selling you out," Nenedal said. "There's been employees that have stuck with Costa Mesa but have decided not to leave, and they're just getting cut below the belt."
Other services slated for outsourcing are graphic design, building inspection and animal control.
Costa Mesa's firefighters face outsourcing of a different sort. The city is considering contracting with the Orange County Fire Authority for fire coverage and folding the city's firefighters into the county organization.