The fiscal bloodletting at Payson Town Hall started Monday, with layoff slips to the parks and recreation director, finance manager, fire marshal, town manager’s assistant, grants manager and two people in the building and planning department.
Still under way are the layoffs of more than 120 part-time and seasonal employees, mostly parks and recreation workers who would not have come onto the payroll until the spring.
The personnel cutbacks are the most painful element in a $4.5 million set of cuts to cope with projected declines in sales taxes and other revenues. Sales tax receipts held steady for the first three months of the fiscal year, but dropped sharply behind projections in October. The council this year adopted a budget 10 percent below last year and the cuts will shrink it an additional 16 percent.
The personnel cuts ranged from recently hired finance manager Doug Hill, who technically didn’t get past his probationary period, to Debbie Dawson, a 10-year employee let go just short of being vested in the health plan.
Parks and Recreation Director Rick Manchester was the highest visibility casualty. During his tenure, enrollment in parks programs has doubled.
Other layoffs included Jon Cadd and Kevin Turner in the building and planning department, grants manager Kevin Krogulski and Fire Marshal Bob Lockart, according to a memo written by Town Manager Debra Galbraith and copied to town council members.
Laid off employees declined to talk to the media. Reportedly, the town’s agreement to keep the laid off workers on payroll through the end of December could be revoked if they said anything.
Galbraith could not be reached prior to deadline.
Mayor Kenny Evans said several individuals and The Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation have vowed to raise more than $100,000 to support parks programs and perhaps avert layoffs of part-time and seasonal workers in the spring.
“I’ve been stunned by their willingness to step forward without us begging them to step forward,” said Evans, before heading off on a three-week trip to meet with European investors about a proposed resort development in Payson.
Evans said many town employees had offered to work shorter hours or take a pay cut, to save the jobs of coworkers.
However, he said the council feared additional cuts would be necessary if the economy continued its slide.
“To some extent, we need to keep our powder dry. I’m fearful if we use up all our ammunition here in this first round, we’ll have no other alternative that won’t be very Draconian.”
Other budget reductions approved last week by the town council include halting almost all street, building and maintenance projects, eliminating new capital improvements, and cutting nearly $500,000 in supplies and outside contracts for landscaping and janitorial services. Employees will also work 10-hour days and shut down town hall on Fridays, to save $51,000 in utility bills.
The police, fire and water departments, which account for a large share of the budget were spared most of the cuts, although the police department is currently three officers below its authorized level.
The council approved the layoff plan last week, after rejecting an alternative proposal that would have borrowed $300,000 from millions of dollars in water department reserves. The loan would have cost about $8,000 monthly for the next three years, but council members said that would only make the fiscal hole deeper.
Although sales tax revenue was behind projections by only about $60,000 for the first four months of the year, the trend line projected a $1.6 million deficit in the general fund and a $4.5 million shortfall in all funds.
The town entered the current fiscal year with almost no reserves, after spending about $3 million in reserves to finish out last year.