By Joel Hall
As part of the proposed budget for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, the City of Riverdale is considering outsourcing the work of its General Services department to an outside company. While city officials believe the move could save the city $328,280 in salaries and benefits, the decision would terminate six employees from the city's payroll.
On Monday, the Riverdale City Council approved resolutions to request bid proposals for landscape maintenance services and janitorial services, two services currently provided by the city's General Services department. Both votes passed 2-0-0, with council members Wayne Hall and Rick Scoggins abstaining.
City Manager Iris Jessie said the City Council approached department heads about possible ways to save money in the 2010 budget, and that eliminating the General Services department was the most logical choice.
"We are going to end this year in the black, so it is not about this fiscal year, but about next year's fiscal year," Jessie said. "With all the foreclosures and reassessment of property ... we probably won't be getting as much property taxes next year. The downturn in the economy is really forcing us to look for continuous improvement.
"With this very uncertain period of revenue generation, we really need to be as conservative as possible," she continued. "Some of our taxpayers are hurting too, so we can't ask them for more money. We have to look at the greatest good for the city."
Jessie said the six employees - four of whom are responsible for grass cutting and right-of-way maintenance, and two who are responsible for janitorial duties - make $18.59 an hour with benefits. Many of the duties of the General Services department ceased to exist when the city sold its water department and stormwater management function to the Clayton County Water Authority several years ago, she said.
"About 80 percent of the workload that these individuals used to do no longer exists," Jessie said.
Hall said he believes the city can operate in fiscal year 2010 without cutting employees.
"I think, personally, there are better ways and other alternatives that should be offered, particularly when Riverdale is supposed to have a bounty of money," Hall said. "Workers are valuable to any city. If there is a problem with mismanagement, negligible mismanagement, then we need to take a look at that.
"There are some people in this city who have more years than these supervisors who get to make the decisions about their lives," he added. "We have to be more judicious."
Scoggins said he believes the city needs to cut out positions in upper management before resorting to getting rid of employees.
"From what I have been told, the employees have been told [by supervisors] that July the first is their last day," Scoggins said. "These employees are like old horses being put to pasture. The city is basically top heavy. Why are we still creating top positions? We need to trim down at the top, and we can be more substantial at the bottom."
Councilwoman Wanda Wallace said she believes the city needs to do whatever it can in the fiscal 2010 budget to save money, and that cutting General Services is an alternative that should be considered.
"If they [council members Scoggins and Hall] can find a way of saving money, and then present it to the board, it's fine," Wallace said. "Giving an alternative ... that has never been done. I'm a taxpayer. If I was not even in this seat ... if they [the council] can find any way of saving me money instead of raising my property taxes, then I want them to do it."
Councilman Kenny Ruffin said he believes the welfare of the taxpayer should be paramount in any decision that the city may make about cutting employees.
"With the budget coming up, we're going to review every opportunity, particularly with the economy, not to raise taxes and maintain the same level of services," Ruffin said. "The employees are very important and we realize that they do provide the services, but ultimately, our first responsibility is to the citizens."
The City Council is expected vote on its fiscal 2010 budget on June 25.