By Sue Botos
Doing more with less is on many local communities’ New Year’s resolution lists, and the city of Lakewood kicked off its own version with LEAN Lakewood last year, a program that aims to lower costs and streamline the city budget. Recently, three employee unions did their part by agreeing to extend their existing collective bargaining agreements through Dec. 31, 2013.
The current agreement was made in 2010 and was set to expire at the end of 2012.
The two local chapters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Fraternal Order of Police dispatchers union have agreed to contracts that will provide for no increase in wages or health care contributions for 2013. This is in response to projected revenue losses after Gov. John Kasich made sweeping cuts in February 2011, including slashing local government funds by 50 percent and doing away with the estate tax. Property tax has also been trimmed by 4 percent due to decreased valuations.
City employees are represented by seven bargaining units whose contracts are all expiring within the next few months. Non-union employees’ wages have already been frozen.
When the city budget was presented to City Council in November, general fund revenues for 2013 were projected at $33.30 million, nearly $2.75 million less than the previous year, which city officials say is comparable to 2002 levels. Also reflected in the financial plan are nine vacated full-time positions which will not be filled. A City planner has been added by the combination of three other positions.
The city is also keeping an eye on Columbus as it considers HB 601, a measure that would standardize income tax codes currently decided upon by individual municipalities.
“We all have a weather eye toward any further cuts the governor’s administration may make to municipal budgets in 2013,” commented Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers. “A one-year extension with AFSCME and the FOP dispatchers union was appropriate in light of this uncertainty.”
The AFSCME unions represent nearly half of Lakewood’s city workforce with 176 public works and administrative employees. There are 11 police dispatchers in the FOP union.
Jerry Branco, president of AFSCME Local 1043, said in a statement that “AFSCME union employees have worked with the administration at every level to cut costs and maintain services throughout the last four years, and we were happy to continue to work with the city to get to this agreement.”
“I appreciate our employees’ willingness to move forward and continue to work together for another year without a wage increase to serve our citizens in a very challenging environment,” commented Summers, adding that the city is still facing a rough road when it comes to state cuts and rising health care costs.
City employees are represented by seven bargaining units whose contracts are all expiring within the next few months. Wage freezes are already in store for Lakewood’s nonunion employees.
“Local government has to begin a whole new way of thinking,” noted Summers.