Cuts include a reduction of library hours and elimination of a proposed concert series

TIGARD - The city of Tigard announced, Friday, that it was laying off nearly a dozen city employees immediately in order to maintain a sustainable budget for the next two years.

In total, the city is letting go of the equivalent of 17 full-time employees. The final body count includes 11 employees laid off, with the rest having their hours reduced.

Some currently unfilled positions will be eliminated, according to City Manager Craig Prosser.

The reason for the layoffs - surprise, surprise - is the down economy.

'Basically, the economy has not been coming back as quickly as we'd hoped,' Prosser said. 'Last year (in the city's budget) we were trying to bridge to the recovery. Now, according to economists, we'll probably not see an uptick for the next two years. We just can't bridge that far, so we had to make an adjustment.'

The city receives more than half of its funding through new construction, which has all but come to a halt during the recession, as well as property taxes and franchise fees for city utilities such as water, electricity and gas - and those rates have flattened, Prosser said.

'And that doesn't help us when our own expenses increase,' he said.

In a press release, Prosser said that the cuts in service and city staff were 'critical to position Tigard financially to survive until the recovery takes hold.' He added that with the layoffs and service cuts, the city will be able to sustain its budget for the next two years.

The layoffs include a librarian, and a few library aids and assistants, a planning manager in the community development department, as well a planning manager, development engineer, an inspector, permit technicians and the cities only code compliance officer.

'We're going to have to figure out how to handle nuisance compliance,' Prosser said.

The plan for the time being will be to have community development planners take over code enforcement duties.

Other layoffs include development engineers, technicians and administrative support in the Public Works Department, and the city's switchboard operator. That position is planned to become an automated system.

The layoffs even affect the police department. The exact number hasn't been worked out just yet, but Prosser did say that the layoffs will include a combination of sworn officers and nonsworn police personnel.

Library reducing hours

But the layoffs aren't the only changes that are coming, In the future, the Tigard Public Library announced Wednesday, it will reduce some of its hours along with the layoffs of some of its staff.

Beginning June 3, the Tigard Public Library will reduce its hours on Thursdays, opening at 1 p.m. instead of the normal Monday through Friday opening time of 10 a.m.

'Although we will have fewer staff, our goal is to provide the same kind of competent, caring service that Tigard residents have come to expect,' said Margaret Barnes, library services director, in a statement. 'We hope the public will continue to support the library and we appreciate their understanding during these tight economic times.'

The city also plans to take a step back from community events that it had previously hoped to sponsor, such as the return of the Fanno Creek Conference, where the city hoped to bring in experts on key issues affecting residents. The event had been held in the 1990s with varying degrees of success, and this year was meant to be the conference's triumphant return. The goal was for citizens to take a more active role in shaping direction and city goals, based on the outcome of the conference.

There are no plans to bring the conference back in 2011, either, according to Liz Newton, assistant city manager.

But wait, there's more.

A proposed summer concert series has also been canceled, and the city's Family Fest event is still on for September, but Prosser said that it would have to be 'scaled down.'

The city will no longer rent out city conference rooms to private groups, including rooms at the Tigard Public Library, Town Hall, the conference room at the public works building on Southwest Burnham Street and the Tigard Senior Center.

Prosser said that while renting out the rooms brought in some money to the city, it was just not enough to cover the costs associated with renting the rooms.

'We had thought about raising our fees, but to get anywhere near covering our costs, we'd have to quadruple our rates,' he said. 'And that would just drive down demand and then we're back to not covering our costs.'

Conference rooms currently reserved will be honored, Prosser said, but new reservations will not be taken.

The city's proposed budget will be released April 23. The first budget committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the Public Works Auditorium. 8777 S.W. Burnham St., in Tigard.

New Tigard Public Library hours

The Tigard Public Library will now be open three hours later on Thursdays, effective June 3. All other library hours will remain the same.

- Monday - Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

- Thursday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

- Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

- Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

- Sunday Noon to 6 p.m.

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