The axe is hanging over 500 jobs at 110 Laurier.
With the prospect of another big property tax increase in next year’s budget, Mayor Larry O’Brien tabled a motion at the corporate and economic services committee yesterday for the reduction of 500 city hall jobs to cap the municipal staff count at 13,500 people.
The motion, which now goes to council for approval, calls for cutbacks through attrition, but O’Brien said there would be some “involuntary reductions.”
“It’s time to not be afraid of the word ‘cut,’” O’Brien said. “There are potential dark clouds on the horizon and to pretend everything is bright and sunny would be doing our citizens a disservice.”
The motion exempts emergency services jobs including police, paramedics and firefighters and directs city managers to use technological efficiencies to reduce city hall payroll.
The outcry against the mayor’s proposal was immediate.
Coun. Alex Cullen called the motion “a useless waste of time,” because “it gives politics a bad name when you put forward a motion that you are not going to support at the end of the day.”
Ottawa District Labour Council president Sean McKenney said it was sad for the workers and their family members who will fret for months, wondering if their jobs will be cut.
“For the mayor to spring it on everyone today was a bit of a surprise, but it’s not something we haven’t become accustomed to in the last 19 months,” he said.
City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick said 500 job cuts are not even possible without affecting city services.
And since emergency personnel are exempt and staff has been directed not to affect a variety of other services, Kirkpatrick said the cuts would likely come from recreation, arts and cultural programming.
Even with a forecasted 4.9 per cent property tax increase for 2009, the city still must reduce spending by $19 million to $57 million, resulting in job and service cuts.
Coun. Diane Deans supported the motion, but said it was not a vote for “500 F.T.E reductions. I don’t think that’s realistic.”
“But I support looking at the options in order to have a better informed debate at budget time,” she said.