Clovis News

'Golden handshakes' may lessen Clovis layoffs

A plan to offer "golden handshake" retirements to employees may reduce the number of layoffs that Clovis city officials have said they likely will have to make.

The Clovis City Council will hear a report tonight that offers public safety employees two extra years of service credit as an incentive to retire -- and save the jobs of younger employees.

Two extra years will mean higher pension payments for those who take the retirement deal.

Clovis officials are seeking ways to bridge a $5.3 million revenue shortfall for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The city expects to have to lay off five police officers and three firefighters.

Council members also will discuss wage concessions from its management team and union-represented employees as a way to reduce layoffs.

"We are offering this as a benefit, and it may be an incentive for those close to retirement to go ahead and retire," said Robert Ford, the city's general services director.

The retirements also will reduce the city's benefit costs if older workers take advantage of the program, he said.

To reduce the city's parks maintenance budget, golden handshakes could be considered for parks employees, too, said Robert Woolley, the city's finance director.

There may be enough police officers taking the city's offer to avoid layoffs, said John Fannon, president of the Clovis Police Officers' Association.

"Four officers are committed to taking it and we have one that is looking into it to see if it's something that will work for him," Fannon said. "I have been told if that happens no other officers would have to be concerned about their jobs."

But, he said, the city's new staffing level, about 20 fewer than two years ago, is worrisome.

"Going to a staffing level of 91 or 92 [officers] is very serious and we have been working on different concepts to provide service," he said. "It's just a tough situation."

The retirement deal will benefit both the city and employees who take it, said Randy Finfrock, Clovis Firefighters' Association president.

"It's a good deal for the city," he said. "The city will harvest hundreds of thousands of dollars."

But, he said, he is not sure if three firefighters are willing to retire.

The city is considering closing the downtown Clovis fire station for most of the year because otherwise there will not be enough staff to cover all five stations.

Mayor Harry Armstrong said the early retirements are one option the city is reviewing.

But, he also said, the state could take more money from the city after state budget measures last month.

City officials estimate the state could take back another $1.7 million.

The city also will be looking for wage concessions for a second straight year.

The City Council will vote tonight to reduce pay for management employees and council members by 5.74% in July.

Last year, city workers' pay was reduced 4.34% below their base pay through June 30.

Beginning July 1, city employees will be asked to lower their base pay by 5.74%.

The reductions could amount to $1.5 million this year.

Last year, the concessions amounted to about $1.2 million.

Union-represented employees are meeting with city management to discuss the proposal.