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Eight Palmetto city employees laid off

PALMETTO — Responding to the slowdown in the local building and construction market, and in an effort to reduce spending, city administrators reduced their staff by eight employees.

City Clerk Jim Freeman said Wednesday five of the laid-off workers came from the building and planning departments.

The other three came from public works, parks and recreation, and computer services, Freeman said.

The salary and benefits of the eight employees will produce a savings of about $462,600 a year, just over half of the $750,000 needed to balance the budget without raising the property tax rate.

“We feel pretty comfortable that these reductions and other budget modifications will get us to a balanced budget,” Freeman said.

Because most of the layoffs came from the two departments that handle the permitting and inspections for building and construction, Freeman did not expect residents to notice any changes.

“We envision no effect on service to the public, considering that five of the positions were directly a reaction to the economy,” he said.

Freeman said the employees will receive one month’s pay as severance, and the city will pay their health insurance premiums for a month.

The city commission has been holding a series of workshops over the past month reviewing revenue and expenses in an attempt to fashion a balanced budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

Commissioner Brian Williams said it was unfortunate the city had to resort to layoffs.

“Since the time I’ve been a commissioner, I have never been part of a layoff like this,” Williams said. “There was no other way to cut back and save the money needed to run the city.”

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said it was hard for the city administration to let people go. “I felt bad for each of them,” Groover Bryant said.

Commissioners have been working through the proposed $23.9 million budget to give the city staff direction on where to find the remaining $287,400 in cuts.