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Published: Friday, 3/12/2010

Northwood mulls layoffs, reducing hours, 3% pay cuts

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Stung by continuing income tax revenue losses, Northwood has widened proposed personnel cutbacks to laying off four full-time employees, including two police patrolmen, and reducing four other city positions to part time.

Mayor Mark Stoner said proposed personnel reductions would save the city $456,342 a year. The cutbacks, expected within three weeks, are among union and nonunion employees, he said.

"I tried to keep it equal," the mayor said. "It's always a shock when it happens. … We're really no different than the private sector."

Mr. Stoner said Northwood would save an additional $24,000 by having all nonunion employees take 3 percent pay cuts. Council is expected to consider that proposal at its March 25 meeting.

Last year, Northwood laid off three full-time and one part-time employee to balance its 2010 budget, which totals $4.5 million. Six other jobs were left vacant.

Through February, however, Northwood's income tax revenue was down 15 percent, and the city is making budget plans based on that trend continuing. Mr. Stoner initially proposed laying off five full-time employees and making one position part time.

Police Chief Thomas Cairl said the city still would have 14 patrolmen if the department has two more layoffs, so four police officers would be on patrol 90 percent of the time. There could be an issue with overtime costs, which the department was able to slash by 54 percent last year, he said.

"I don't see any loss of services at this point," the chief said.

Mr. Stoner also proposed reallocating income tax revenue so 80 percent goes into the general fund and nothing is put into the city's capital replacement fund starting April 1. That proposal, which would contribute $240,000 this year, also is expected to be discussed March 25.

All three of the mayor's proposals would contribute $720,342 to Northwood's general fund, about $200,000 of which should be carried over to next year, he said.

Several City Council members discussed budget issues last night at a finance committee meeting, and the discussion continued through council's regular meeting.

One possibility being debated by council is asking voters to raise Northwood's income tax by 0.25 percent for five years for a total of 1.75 percent. That levy could be put on the November ballot.

Councilman David Gallaher said Northwood needs to look at ways to raise revenue, not just make cuts. "This really doesn't deal with our issue," he said.



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