Thursday Oct 22 2009
City cuts management hours, benefits
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
Council votes to reduce $600,000 from compensation
Nearly a half dozen management-level city leaders are retiring, but not before the city decided to cut their hours and benefits. Last Tuesday, Rocklin City Council approved new employee agreements with City Manager Carlos Urrutia, Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens, Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson, the chief building official and a senior engineer who were expected to retire in December. Now they will stay on for another year as contract employees with little to no benefits, in an effort to save the city $600,000 in compensation. “It was my idea,” Urrutia said. “I had to talk a couple of them into it. I believe we can run this city, this way, for a short period of time.” The city is expected to save about the same amount this year by the mandated furlough Friday policy for all city workers. Siemens made just under $200,000 annually but will now be required to work less than a full work week at $95.14 an hour, according to the city. “If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” Siemens said. Urrutia collected a salary of about $230,000 annually and will now be required to work no more than 24 hours a week at his hourly rate. “We get no vacation, no sick leave, no contribution to retirement or vision, dental or life insurance,” Urrutia said. Mayor Peter Hill said in a state budget crisis year with faltering revenues and a sluggish economy now is the time for everybody to cut back. “The city council approved this approach because we don’t think this is the time to change management,” Hill said. “In this time of budget cutbacks, we feel we need the years of experience Carlos and Mark have to help us through it.” As a perk associated with Urrutia’s agreement, the city will provide a fax, copy machine, cell phone allowance, high-speed Internet access and a laptop at home and at the office. Urrutia said not all of the contract will be utilized. “I don’t have (a city-subsidized laptop),” Urrutia said. “If I want to I could have one but I don’t want one.” The city did agree to pay monthly into a deferred compensation plan, a 401(a) retirement program for the pair. The city manager will be allowed to have a city subsidized credit card and will be allowed to have all travel expenses for city business picked up by the city. Urrutia said that too may be unused as the city initiated a travel ban to save money. This year, Urrutia did not attend a conference of the League of California Cities even though they discussed litigation against the state on behalf of the city of Rocklin. “I’ve been here for 25 years; I know my job pretty well. I know how to use my time and prioritize my time. I also have very competent city staff,” Urrutia said. “To be able to generate the savings over the next year at a time when the city really needs savings is a good idea for all of us.” Their current contract ends Dec. 10. Urrutia will officially retire June 30, 2010, according to the city. Siemens will stay on until March 31, 2011. Some critics have suggested the city may be better off replacing the city manager and police chief now to allow the new managers to work full time at a time of lower salary expectations. Vice Mayor Scott Yuill said Rocklin citizens would not benefit from immediate replacements. “The price tag for recruiting highly-specialized positions, the inefficiencies that learning curves for new hires create, and the unknown level of salaries needed to successfully attract employment for these positions would surely cost more than keeping the existing folks on board under this temporary arrangement,” Yuill said. Siemens said Urrutia and the other managers want to use the extra time to help the city get by in bad economic times. “The next year I’ll be doing as much torch passing as I can to the next generation of people in leadership here,” Siemens said. He also wants to accomplish a professional goal of getting the police department through another reaccredidation before he loads the family up in an RV or flies his private plane to an all American destination with his grandkids. “When I’m done, I’m done and I’ll ride off into the sunset,” Siemens said. He also hopes to guide his possible replacement, if in fact, the new city manager looks internally. “I want to make sure some of the candidates here are ready,” he said.