F’ville in major downsizing mode
Fayetteville decides to go lean in lean economy
The reorganization of city government approved Aug. 16 by the Fayetteville City Council brought a number of changes in city staffing and is on track to accomplish the goal of reducing city expenditures.
The early retirement being taken by more than a dozen long-time employees that accompanied the reorganization will produce a net savings of nearly $250,000 this year and more than $450,000 next year.
For Fayetteville, the move to respond to the decrease in revenues brought on by the recession began in 2007. City government at that time had 166 employees. Today, that number sits in the mid-120s, said City Manager Joe Morton.
Fayetteville in 2007 began a process that led to leaving some job positions unfilled and city employees taking voluntary furlough days to help offset decreasing revenues brought on by the recession.
Looking at the continuing local recession, the falling tax digest and the need for further reductions in expenditures, the City Council at the March retreat had a goal of instituting an early retirement incentive program (ERIP) that has resulted in 17 long-time employees participating.
All the employees are at or near the top of their pay grades and some held positions as department heads.
The bottom line is that the net savings from the early retirement plan for those 17 employees will reduce city expenditures $247,203 this year and $447,950 next year, Morton said.
Among those who have retired or are set to retire soon are City Engineer Don Easterbrook, Finance Director Lynn Robinson, Assistant Finance Director Ellen Walls, City Clerk Anne Barnard and Public Works Director Charles Stanley.
The provisions of the early retirement program include the potential for retirees to return after one month of separation to a part-time status. Currently 14 or the 17 are projected to return to part-time. A part of the incentive for retirees is that the city will pay 75 percent of the single-coverage premium on healthcare.
Some positions will be unaffected, some will be consolidated and others not being utilized will be eliminated.
Among the positions being eliminated are accounting coordinator, engineering technician trainee, senior maintenance crew leader, senior engineering technician, chief code enforcement officer, special projects coordinator, public works crew supervisor and assistant director of public works. Some of those positions have not been actively occupied for years.
The reorganization will have the job duties of some positions, such as that of city engineer, farmed out to several employees, Morton said. In other cases, jobs from different departments will be absorbed under positions such as the new Finance and Administrative Services Office Manager.
Another effect of the reorganization is that it gives existing employees the potential for career advancement, Morton added.
Asked about the reason for the early retirement program, Morton summed it up in one word: money.
“ERIP is saving us money. We looked at (the cost-reduction measures) we’ve done in the past, this is the third time since 2007. We’re maximizing our human assets. That’s how we provide services to the community, through our people,” Morton said of the current initiative. “I’m very happy with this. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
The goals of the early retirement were to reduce personnel costs, assist in balancing the General Fund, the Water and Sewer Fund and the Capital Projects Fund budgets. Given the savings generated, the early retirement program was also seen as an alternative to layoffs, across the board salary reductions and non-voluntary furloughs. It also provides for the ability to retain employees who possess institutional knowledge of city operations.
An actuarial study had been performed and a cost-saving analysis was conducted prior to the approval of the retirement program.