Council amends budget to save 17 Metro workers

Monday, June 15, 2009 at 12:40pm

Metro Council members will consider at their Tuesday meeting amendments to Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.5 billion budget proposal that will save 17 positions that were slated for elimination.

Councilman Jim Forkum, the chair of the budget and finance committee, said the budget ordinance amendments will move around $787,000 to save 17 total positions — four from public works, two from codes and 11 from parks.

As of last week, there are still about 66 positions scheduled to be eliminated if the 17 positions are restored, Forkum said.

Dean’s budget proposal called for suspension of scheduled longevity bonuses, along with pay freezes for Metro workers. Dean and Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling navigated a budget in unchartered waters.

For the first time in Metro’s history, less revenue was budgeted for next fiscal year than the current one. Metro’s revenue collections were down $29 million this year.

As a result, Council was forced to consider restoring a percentage of the longevity bonuses and pay increases, but Forkum said that possibility would have meant more layoffs.

“Early on there were some [department budget hearings] where there were a few Council members interested in longevity and pay increases,” Forkum said. “But as you got to realizing how many people you’d have to cut, we’re talking about eliminating 60 more positions. Would you want to lay more people off just to give back bonuses to a few people? I think not.”

The $787,000 will come from a reduction in appropriations to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, along with the elimination of contingency funds. Forkum said none of the contingency fund reductions would impact operations or lead to more layoffs.

Forkum also said the reductions had the support of the Dean administration, which was consulted as the amendment proposal was considered.

Additionally, the Metro Community Education program will be able to dip into its reserve fund and hire a new program director, Forkum said. Community Education was facing layoffs when its budget shortfall was uncovered earlier this year, but Forkum said those workers would be able to keep their jobs as well.