The position cuts were made across city departments ranging from administrative staff to Fire Department support to community development.
The Community Development Department was the hardest hit, according to city spokesman Adam Mayberry. This round of layoffs eliminated 14 positions from the department. Now, community development only has 22 of its 84 available positions filled.
The Police and Fire departments, whose sworn staff have been shielded from layoffs throughout the past year, did not entirely dodge the bullet this time.
Tuesday’s layoffs included some non-sworn police staff, which will increase the workload across the department, officials said, ultimately creating delays. The staff reductions will also hinder the police identification and evidence units.
In addition to the layoffs, Tuesday’s budget cuts suspended police education programs, including D.A.R.E.
Although the Sparks Fire Department did not fire any firefighters, they did take steps to reduce staffing overtime. This means that Sparks residents may see three firefighters on a responding fire truck rather than four. This change was made on Dec. 18 in anticipation of Tuesday’s budget cuts.
“We anticipated this coming and at that time the fire chief chose to move ahead,” Sparks Fire Department Division Chief Bill Finley said. “We knew that ours (our cuts ) would be in reducing our minimum staffing overtime.”
The Fire Department cuts also spelled the end of firefighters doing safety presentations at schools and business.
Outside of education and public safety, recreation was also affected. Deer and Oppio Park pools will be closed for the upcoming swim season. The Sparks Marina will also be closed for swimming this coming summer.
According to Mayberry, the seasonal staff and maintenance for the pools and beach cost the city $150,000.
Other Parks and Recreation cuts include the elimination of the adapted aquatics, summer playground and junior giants programs among other cuts.
The financial slicing also felled the city’s urban forestry program, which provides education for those with a green thumb and cares for 20,000 trees throughout the city.
“With time our residents may notice that our parks are ... not as well maintained,” Mayberry said.
As Sparks residents go about their daily business, they may also now notice slower response times for building plan reviews and fire inspections, due to lack of staffing in the fire department.
The effect on building and growth reaches beyond the fire department as customer counters at the Building and Planning Department will only be open Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting today. Over the counter building permit review and issuance has been discontinued and, according to Mayberry, all plans will be taken in for review by staff in the order they are received.
This means that the review time for building permit applications will increase from three to four weeks to six to eight weeks.
“We simply cannot afford to keep some of the lesser priority (expenditure) programs,” Mayberry said.
The layoffs and city cuts come in the wake of dismal revenue projections.
The city is expecting one of its larger revenue sources, consolidated taxes, to decrease by 20 percent from last fiscal year, meaning a $4.2 million loss. This is compacted on top of a 12.5 percent loss in fiscal year 2006-2007. Consolidated taxes contribute 31 percent of the city’s general fund budget.
Other revenue sources such as business licenses and other charges for service are expected to be nearly $500,000 less than one year ago, Mayberry said.
While city staff project an 8.9 percent increase in property tax revenue this fiscal year, it is anticipated to be the last year of increases for the short term.
This round of cuts, which must appear before the City Council for final approval, should hold the city over until 2010, Mayberry said.
Just this past year, the city sliced $7.2 million from its budget. Last year at this time, the city had 634 full-time employees. After Tuesday that number shrunk to 553 employees.
Other program cuts include slicing one-third of the city’s criminal prosecutors working from the city attorney’s office and eliminating the citizen leadership academy. Also, hours of operation for obtaining a passport will be reduced.