LORAIN — A reorganization of the Community Development Department designed to save $130,000 annually will proceed without eliminating union jobs.
“In terms of the issue of about taking bargaining unit work and offloading it elsewhere, we’re not going to do that,” Mayor Chase Ritenauer said Tuesday. “It’s a matter of achieving the efficiency, but doing it the right way.”
Under Ritenauer’s original plan, the accounting responsibilities of four retiring department employees would be picked up by the Auditor’s Office, which would hire two deputy auditors, who would earn less than the retiring employees. Because the Auditor’s Office is run by an elected official, the original plan presented to City Council members on July 23 called for the two new positions to be non-union, which angered union leaders.
To avoid union grievances, Ritenauer said any union positions moved to the Auditor’s Office will stay union by maintaining the same job descriptions. The savings will still be achieved because the salaries of the new employees will be significantly less than the retirees’. Ritenauer said Council members approval isn’t needed for the modified plan.
The plan is on hold until state pension fund changes are resolved. The uncertainty is delaying the retirements of three of the four employees.
Ritenauer said Wednesday he’s hopeful the reshuffling will occur by the end of the year. Until then, one employee will be hired to train with the three retiring employees.
Ritenauer said he’ll decide after the retirements how many employees will move to the Auditor’s Office, but the goal is to give Auditor Ron Mantini greater accounting oversight over the department.
Facing a projected $2 million deficit next year, Ritenauer has sought a combination of revenue increases — a 0.5 percent income tax increase to raise $5.3 million annually is on the November ballot — and cost-cutting restructuring, rather than layoffs.
Lorain, under fiscal watch by the state since 2002, has cut about 185 jobs in the last decade, primarily through attrition. Lorain has about 425 employees compared with about 610 in 2000 — a 30 percent decrease, Mantini said.
Jack Critelli, United Steel Workers Local 6621 president, said he felt blindsided by Ritenauer’s original proposal, which he had planned to file a grievance over with the National Labor Relations Board. Critelli, whose union represents all city workers other than firefighters and police, said he was pleased about the change.
“I can’t afford to lose any more of my people,” he said.
Critelli said the union has been sympathetic to Lorain’s money woes and hasn’t fought over previous cuts. Critelli said he appreciates Ritenauer’s efforts to hire more workers, a portion of tax increase would pay for workers to better maintain Lorain’s 56 parks, and the union supports the increase.
“It’s better for the city and it’s better for my bargaining unit,” Critelli said. “We’ve gone through layoffs before, and it wasn’t pretty.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.