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Glendale issues layoff notices

Early retirement option could drop the number of affected workers, officials say.

October 12, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

As the city issues another round of layoff notices, more than two dozen employees could be cut in coming months, with Glendale Water & Power seeing the highest impact as officials attempt to pull the utility out of the red.

In addition to issuing the layoff notices this week, the city is also offering early retirement incentives to workers 50 or older who have been employed by the city for at least five years. Some of those who received layoff notices may opt to retire.

City officials expect 15 to 20 utility officials to retire by the end of the month.

Glendale cut its workforce by nearly 130 people last month through retirements and layoffs in order to close a $15.4-million budget deficit. But while the General Fund, which pays for most public services, has been balanced, Glendale Water & Power is still on shaky financial ground.

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Despite implementing a zero capital improvement plan and planning electricity rate increase proposals for City Council review in the spring, the utility still can't shake a $10.8-million deficit on the water side. The council approved water rate hikes last March.

The current round of retirements and layoffs should cut that debt in half, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

The debt grew as the water side continued to borrow from electricity funds to pay for capital improvements, which included tens of millions of dollars on infrastructure, such as repairing ailing reservoirs.

With fewer employees, the city may see more outsourcing in the future, City Manager Scott Ochoa said this week at a City Council meeting.

“Consider that we have been through the worst economy in a century, we can't really expect to bounce back any time soon,” Ochoa said.

He added that since City Hall has been stripped down to the smallest workforce in nearly a decade, officials must now decide how to rebuild the organization.

Those who received layoff notices this week mostly held blue-collar jobs at the Grayson Power Plant or working with copper wires, Lorenz said.

Also affected were eight people in Public Works and Community Services & Parks. Since employees who are laid off can bump down to a position they held previously, workers in other departments may lose their jobs in their place.

The City Council signed off on $268,000 in paid leave through Nov. 15 on Tuesday for those who received layoff notices this week since some may come back to work if enough employees retire.

“The numbers sound big now, but ultimately they will get smaller,” Lorenz said.

Follow Brittany on Google+ or Twitter @brittanylevine.

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