Kent Employees Pitch in to Save Colleagues’ Jobs
KENT, Wash. – March 24, 2009 – All of Kent’s City employees are giving back to save their fellow employees from layoffs.
Mayor Suzette Cooke announced that Kent city employees have voted to take reductions in their compensation in an effort to bridge a portion of a forecasted $4 million shortfall in the 2009 general fund budget.
“The willingness of our employees to share in the burden and sacrifice for their co-workers is awesome,” Cooke said. “Keeping our trained staff allows the City to continue providing high quality services residents expect. I am very grateful for our employees’ generosity.”
City administrators implemented several cost saving measures last summer in anticipation of reduced revenues, including freezing 28 unfilled positions and cutting operational expenses. Cooke said the continued decline left Kent with a larger than projected budget gap.
“John Hodgson, our Chief Administrative Officer, and I have made a concerted effort to keep employees up to speed on the City’s changing financial position,” Cooke said. “It was after one of my updates that all of the City’s department directors volunteered to give up their annual cost of living increase. What followed was spectacular.”
The Teamsters and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees) Unions voted to take five and six furlough days respectively through the end of the year. Both Fire and Police Unions voted to give up a deferred compensation contribution through the end of the year. Additionally, non-represented staff voted to take five furlough days. Unpaid furlough days will be taken at an employee’s discretion rather than on designated days, thereby maintaining the City’s standard hours of operation.
Cooke said all of the employee groups voted to save jobs, and in doing so, saved $1.3 million. Cooke estimated as many as 20 layoffs were avoided.
“I am extremely proud of the compassion and caliber of people working for the City of Kent,” said Cooke. “Their pulling together for their co-workers is very heartening in this tough economy. It is this kind of teamwork that will see us through.”
City Administration continues to closely monitor the economy, and in particular, the State of Washington’s projected $8.9 billion deficit. “We are not out of the woods yet,” Cooke said. “As we see what budget decisions are made in the state legislature we will develop and implement changes to the city’s budget accordingly.”
Michelle Witham, City of Kent