Rucker seeks reduction in city’s workforce

WARREN — City Council began discussing Wednesday whether the city should look at reducing its authorized strength to reflect the amount of workers it is actually using, instead of the number of employees it is authorized to have.

During a council-as-a-whole meeting, Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large, said the last time the city had these discussions was in 2002 and the legislation at that time was tabled.

The city is authorized to have hundreds more employees than it actually has working for it. Many of these positions are never expected to be filled.

Rucker wants council and the administration to reduce the number of employees to a size that reflects how employees are used today.

In her effort to begin these discussions, she asked the city’s human resources department to send her the number of employees each department currently has and how much they earn.

“It is important to know where city employees are and what are their wages,” she said. “We should look at the number of employees we need and adjust to right size the city.”

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-at large, emphasized the process should not be approached quickly.

“We will not get this done by the end of the year, if it is done responsibly,” Colbert said. “Each council member will have to reach out to the head of every department under their committee to discuss their needs. This should not be done with a hatchet but with a scalpel.”

Colbert said council could do the city’s operations harm if this is approached the wrong way.

Councilman Dan Sferra, D-at large, suggested there really is no need for council to change the authorized strengths of each department because it controls the number of employees through the budgeting process.

“We are always in control of the staffing by the size of the budget we authorize,” Sferra said.“If the size of their budget only allows the department to have 61 employees, then that is the number of employee they will have.”

Law Director Greg Hicks said the determination of whether a position should be eliminated is not up to council.

“It is the appointing authority that decides when a position is no longer needed,” Hicks said. “In the city’s case that would be the safety-service director.”

After the appointing authority makes that determination, then it will go to the civil service commission for review. Afterwards, it then will have to go to collective bargaining.

Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the discussions should center around actual strength, instead of authorized strength.