WILKES-BARRE – The city furloughed four Department of Public Works employees on Friday in an effort to curb expenditures, following the layoffs of 11 firefighters a day earlier.
City Operations Director Attilio “Butch” Frati said the furloughed workers are classified as temporary employees but work full-time schedules and are represented by Teamsters Local 401, the DPW workers union.
Frati confirmed the laid-off workers are Tom Wignot, Kevin Egroff Jr., Michael Dunsavage and Nick Sosa.
He said the furloughs follow two retirements in November and the resignation of an employee two to three months ago, and come at what “could be a very busy time of the year.”
“This is the last week for yard waste pickup, which is a challenge for us,” Frati said. “And at any point in time we could have a snowstorm, which is always a challenge, but I honestly feel we’re ready if that should happen.”
Frati said he is hopeful the workers will get their jobs back in 2013.
The new layoffs bring reductions in the city’s workforce undertaken in the last few weeks to 29 employees, about 10 percent of the total workforce.
In addition to the 15 mandatory furloughs in the public works and fire departments, three employees accepted voluntary furloughs and 11 took a retirement incentive offer, according to the mayor’s office.
They were prompted by a $2 million end-of-year deficit the city now faces, in part due to about $1 million in earned income tax revenue it is owed by tax collection agency Centax/Don Wilkinson Agency.
“Laying people off was the last option,” Mayor Thomas Leighton said Friday. “But you’ve got to remember we’re in a great recession and we’re owed a million dollars from our EIT from Centax. I’m not comfortable with what I did; I’m not happy with what I did.”
Leighton said he is seeking a one-year pay freeze for city workers represented by unions, which could save the city about $500,000 in the 2013 budget, but so far unions have not agreed.
Leighton said city elected officials have not taken a pay increase in at least six years and that he has not taken a pay raise since he was first elected.
“I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do, and I’ve done that for the last 7 or 8 years,” he said.
Pat Connors, principal officer for Teamsters Local 401, could not be reached for comment.
The mayor also detailed additional cost cutting measures in his preliminary 2013 budget in a press release Friday, which includes eliminating additional jobs through restructuring the Laborers International Union of North America Local 1310, which represents about 70 clerical and office workers in the city government.
In addition, Leighton’s proposal includes capping a tax increase of 25 mills, with additional staffing cuts coming if taxes cannot be capped at a 25-mill increase, as well as other cutbacks on employment.
Wilkes-Barre’s tax rate in 2012 was 96.63 mills.
The mayor would eliminate the City Hall temporary employee budget line to save $37,000, reduce the Parks and Recreation temporary employment budget line by $200,000, cut training, overtime and double-time expenditures in the Public Works Department by $202,000 and not fill four budgeted vacancies in the police department to save $300,000.