City to ask for early employee retirements to minimize layoffs

Glendale needs about 150 employees to retire by Sept. 1 in order to minimize the number of layoffs that would be needed to close a $15.4-million budget gap for next fiscal year, officials said this week.

At a special budget session at City Hall on Monday, City Manager Scott Ochoa said talks with city unions to discuss the situation were producing “good positive feedback.”

Employees would have until July 13 to take advantage of the early retirement incentives, which have yet to be finalized.

A qualifying employee must have worked for the city for at least five years and be at least 50 years old. There are currently 388 employees who can apply under those terms, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

The number of retirements needed to avoid lay-offs would change depending on who retires. If more managers with higher salaries take the option, the total number decreases, Ochoa said.

The retirement option will not be open to public safety personnel because that may lead to a “great exodus” of police officers — the most difficult position to recruit for and retain, Ochoa said.

During the first round of budget sessions earlier this month, officials said the worst-case scenario would equate to 210 cut positions, or 11% of the municipal workforce. About 125 would come from departments tied to the General Fund, which pays for libraries, police and other public services. Another 85 positions would be under Glendale Water & Power.

The utility cuts would only kick in if the City Council did not approve an electricity rate hike and millions in bonds.

Six employees from the Community Development Department have already received layoff notices. Those cuts were driven by a state mandate axing the city’s Redevelopment Agency in February. The higher property taxes triggered by redevelopment covered more than $6 million in salaries and benefits.

About $7.7 million of the $15.4 million deficit in the General Fund was caused by the redevelopment loss.

Last year, the city was forced to slash several projects and programs in order to close an $18-million budget shortfall.

“The only thing left to cut is personnel,” Ochoa said.

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