City staff addressed layoffs today at Mayor Steve Bach's monthly press conference, saying they were a part of a strategic reorganization.
Mayoral Chief of Staff Laura Neumann said that layoffs were not "made lightly" and were "part of a much bigger master plan." She then called up separate department heads to explain the layoffs and other changes.
First up was Helen Migchelbrink, the city's public works director and city engineer. Migchelbrink laid off two people, and also eliminated eight empty positons in the streets division. Migchelbrink said the changes were due to a shift in operations.
The city plans to bid out all of its paving, chip seal and slurry seal jobs in the future. Come winter, the city plans to continue using a private contractor to snowplow an area in the north, and to create a second zone to be plowed by a private contractor. (The city had hoped an initial test case with a private plower last year would determine whether private snowplowing is cheaper, but Neumann said there was so little snow last winter that it was impossible to tell.)
Other changes include the selling off of some equipment and the possible outsourcing of city fleet. Migchelbrink is currently in discussions with Colorado Springs Utilities, which shares the city fleet department, on the latter issue. There could be a Request for Proposal on fleet as early as the end of the year.
Apparently, Migchelbrink expects the moves to save the city money.
"Because we're outsourcing, we are able to bring back some things, " she said, noting the city plans increased maintenance of alleys and gravel roads, as well as the continuance of a program that assists homeowners in replacing damaged sidewalks.
Next up was Kyle Campbell, developer-turned-interim-director-of-planning. Campbell let go of the most people in the layoff — a total of four — including managers that he no doubt worked with in his time with Classic Communities.
He gave a confusing presentation, saying at once that a close review of how employees spent time in his department showed they were "very efficient," but that he would be forcing his remaining employees to return initial development-review paperwork 35 percent faster. For instance, he said, an initial review of a planned office building that would have taken six weeks in the past now will take four.
Campbell also said that because employees are so efficient, he plans to charge developers 50 percent less for major land-use developments. (It's hard not to argue that such a move benefits Campbell and his friends in the development community.)
Finance director Kara Skinner was the next to present. Skinner consolidated the budget and finance department and downgraded five positions. She also eliminated three vacant management positions. The changes net a yearly savings of $300,000.
Skinner said her department is also working with a consultant to put sales and use tax filings online, saving businesses time and hassle.
Neumann gave some closing remarks on the ordeal, saying layoffs this year would save the city $750,000, and that the money is needed for infrastructure. She added that a budget surplus this year would be eaten up by increased costs next year.
It should be noted however, that money for the canned employees' salaries was already budgeted and accounted for through the end of the year. No immediate shortfall, therefore, led to the dismissals.
Here's a press release about the "reorganization" that came out later today:
Mayor Bach Announces City Reorganization
On Tuesday, August 21, Mayor Bach announced a re-organization of the City of Colorado Springs and several process improvements in key departments as part of his on-going priority to transform City Government to (1) live within its limited financial resources and (2) be the “best in class” city of its size. The following changes are being implemented to serve the people of Colorado Springs with core services effectively and efficiently.
Executive Branch Reorganization
With the retirement of Steve Cox last month, Mayor Bach will take on the role of Interim Chief of Economic Vitality with two direct reports in that area: Principal Analyst Bob Cope and Donna Nelson, who leads Spirit of the Springs and Small Business initiatives. Aviation Director Mark Earle will now report directly to Mayor Bach. Other departments formerly reporting to Steve Cox, including Housing Development, Innovation & Sustainability, and the Parking Enterprise, will report to Nick Kittle, Manager of Administrative Services & Innovation. (See attached Executive Branch Organizational Chart.)
· Consolidate and reorganize the Finance Department to result in ongoing annual General Fund salary and benefit savings of more than $320,000+.
o Budget Office and Budget Manager are under the direction of the Chief Financial Officer.
o Reclassify two division manager positions, and three professional positions to lower classifications — total of five positions downgraded.
o Eliminate one manager position, one professional position and one administrative position - total of three positions eliminated.
· Better utilize resources, cross-train staff, and better align workgroups
o Budget staff and accounting staff moved to same work space will provide cross functional support
o Payroll and Pension administration — moved to more secure and private workspace — better customer service to discuss pay related issues and retirement decisions in a more appropriate setting
o AR moved to Sales Tax Division — technical staff will provide cross functional support
· Implement a new software system for sales-and-use tax collections that is scheduled to be available to taxpayers in early 2013 that will be a more business-friendly process for remitting sales and use taxes and will offer online submittal and payment options.
Public Works — Streets Division
· Restore highly visible, valuable service that was cut in previous budget cycles, while outsourcing another key service to achieve an overall cost savings to the City.
o Procure road resurfacing activities (paving, chip seal, and slurry seal) though an open competitive bidding process using private sector contacting firms
o Restore the alley and gravel roadway maintenance program
o Reduce the number of full time Streets Division employees by 8%
o Sell City paving equipment to reduce maintenance and fuel costs
o Realign staff resources within Public Works to be more efficient such as combining Stormwater Engineering with Engineering Development Review
o Open a competitive bidding process to allow private contractors to plow snow in the City. In 2013, we will expand the area that private snow plowing will occur. If this proves to be cost effective and provides a high level of service for our citizens we will look to further outsource in future budget cycles.
o Continue the 50/50 cost-sharing program that allows citizens to partner with the City to fix broken or missing sidewalk sections
o Partner with Colorado Springs Utilities to seek to completely outsource the current City Fleet Division to a private sector service provider
· Initial $100,000 in annual savings
· Reorganize geographic teams to foster single-team contact from entitlement to certificate of occupancy
o Eliminate six positions (4 filled, 2 vacant)
o Re-assign three positions
o 20% reduction in Land Use Review and Development Review Enterprise Planning salary expenses
· Reduce initial entitlement review times
o On average, 35% reduction in initial review time
o Create an “everyday Rapid Response” approach to assisting owners, businesses and developers
· Reduce entitlement submittal fees
o Reflect actual staff time spent
o 50% reduction in fees greater than $750
· $350,000+ annual savings in Salary/Benefits and Operating Expenses.
Reduction in Force
On Friday, August 17, the City of Colorado Springs notified six employees that their positions are being eliminated due to a reduction in force and re-organization of the City Planning and Public Works departments; although a total of 18 positions were eliminated.
“Transforming City government through continuous process improvement forces us to make tough choices; just like those companies doing the same in the private sector,” says Chief of Staff Laura Neumann. “All six of these employees have played a significant role in the success of our City. I am not sure there is any tougher business decision than making one that impacts individuals who like all of us, have families, financial obligations, and lives where the work they do helps them feel meaningful.”
All six employees will be active through October 8. Two have been offered alternate positions within the City organization.
Other Announcements from Today’s Media Briefing
City Parks Director Karen Palus introduced a new initiative under Spirit of the Springs to help get rid of weeds along streets and medians. Approximately 100 volunteers will help clear weeds in the southeast part of Colorado Springs on September 15. Save the date and look for more details coming soon!
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——- PREVIOUS POST, MONDAY, 12:23 P.M. ——-
According to sources, the planning department layoffs include: Dick Anderwald, land development review division manager, Michael Maloney, planning assistant, Denise Tortorice, planner II, Brett Veltman, development review enterprise manager.
Traffic engineering also suffered two losses: Robert Stinson, maintenance technician 2, and David Krauth, principal traffic engineer.
The city is still refusing to confirm the layoffs or comment on them, but the city apparently cited financial needs for the layoffs, despite a city surplus this budget year. The workers’ last day is October 8.
——- ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, 12:23 P.M. ——-
City spokesperson Cindy Aubrey, however, is refusing to tell the media who was laid off and why, insisting instead that reporters wait for the news until tomorrow's mayoral press briefing.
City layoffs are public information. But since the official sources are refusing to treat them as such, here's what we can tell you via our other source: The layoffs hit the city's planning department. Planning and Development manager Dick Anderwald, who incidentally was leading the staff effort on oil and gas regulations, is among those to be "let go."