A decision to lay off as many as 16 employees in Gilbert’s development services department was delayed Tuesday night after the Gilbert Town Council asked to see every other possible budget-cutting option.
A special meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday when the Town Council will again have a chance to vote on approving the proposed layoffs, which Town Manager George Pettit said he would ask for even if the town was getting the sales tax revenue it had originally projected and had no budget issues.
The town is targeting 20 positions, which includes four that are vacant.
The positions, Pettit said, are no longer necessary since the town now receives less than 50 building permits a month, compared with a previous average of 500 at times, and the work just isn’t there.
“This decision is not taken lightly,” Pettit said. “It’s been a very painful process.”
He said it’s unlikely the housing economy will recover in town and nationwide for at least 18 to 24 months.
Mayor Steve Berman was among the council members who asked for the delay. He argued that the employees facing the cuts helped fuel the town’s massive growth that kept it strong for many years, and that he didn’t want to lay off any employees if the same savings could be made by making all employees go without raises for a year.
Councilwoman Linda Abbott questioned why the town needs to rush to make the cuts, when “during the last seven months there has been a tremendous negative cash flow in that area. Clearly the warning signs were there.”
Councilman Les Presmyk asked whether any employees could opt for early retirement. But Pettit said the costs for buying out contracts have increased dramatically.
Pettit said his staff is preparing a long list of recommended cuts and changes to help the town overcome a $58 million budget deficit over the next four fiscal years. Those recommendations will be released during the Saturday meeting. More layoffs are not off the table, Pettit said.
The expected savings of eliminating the 20 jobs is $1.5 million a year.