Budget Concerns Cost City Jobs - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/20/03

Budget Concerns Cost City Jobs

The Lubbock City Council is prepared to balance the city's budget this week, but not before some tough decisions were made. 50 City of Lubbock employees, 44 of whom work for Lubbock Power and Light, lost their jobs on Thursday. The decision came after city officials struggled for months trying to balance the budget.

It will be a tough week for those 50 city employees who won't be going to work Monday morning. They were notified Thursday, but not in person. Rather with a written memorandum from Assistant City Manager Quincy White which states:

"As a result of current and projected revenue shortfalls a decision was made that your current job with the city be eliminated."

The memorandum gives employees 60 days severance pay.

NewsChannel 11 asked Interim City Manager Tommy Gonzales why it came to this.

"The condition that the utility was in forced us to take some action. One step necessary in order to balance for next year. And, in order to protect LP&L and get it back on the right track," said Gonzales.

So, how did this train get so far off track? The city says that LP&L is in an ugly budget fiasco due to high natural gas prices, the WTMPA's lingering debt, and mismanagement at LP&L revealed by an audit. That led to intense scrutiny of Director Paul Thompson who then resigned.

That resignation helped to free up some cash so the city could revise and balance the current budget. Now, Gonzales has just released this final version of next year's budget to Lubbock City Council for their review.

Gonzales calls this budget conservative and responsible. But those words come at the expense of 50, now former, city employees.

"That's what makes it difficult because they have nothing to do with the problem. Zero!" says Gonzales.

So, who was laid off? LP&L line workers. The people you see out in the field. The layoffs were handed down based on seniority. Those with seniority were protected.

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