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Some city employees will lose jobs

Mayor George Evans and Selma city department heads have begun a process of laying off workers to help bring the city’s budget into line.

Evans informed the Selma City Council of the layoffs during a work session Monday evening at City Hall.

“The city of Selma is not broke,” Evans stressed. “We will not miss a payroll, but we must downsize or let people go. It’s tough.”

Evans wants to take the fiscal 2009 budget down to $17 million for the year. After a series of meetings with department heads and crunching numbers, so far the budget expenditure numbers have come down to $18 million. “We’ll continue to work on it,” he said.

Salaries and benefits cost the city $12 million, leaving about $5 million to operate the city, Evans pointed out.

The city has begun sending letters out to people notifying them of the layoffs. More will come, except in the police and fire departments. Evans declined to release the names or numbers of those who will receive pink slips because the process isn’t over. “We haven’t reached $17 million.”

Council members received packages that outlined the cuts by names and salaries with a warning not to release them just yet because some have yet to receive notification.

The cutbacks come at a hard time as manufacturers have slowed down or closed their doors here in the Black Belt as well as nationwide. On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research said the U.S. recession began last December. A recession occurs whenever gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, falls for two consecutive quarters. The GDP turned negative in the July-September quarter of this year, and some economists have said it is falling faster in the current quarter.

But the city has also lived too high for too long in the previous administration. Wish lists from city department heads just to maintain the status quo pushed the 2009 budget up to $20 million, where it had hovered around $17 million in fiscal 2008, according to a budget worksheet provided by the city.

City council members did not appear surprised, but pained at the mayor’s announcement.

“It’s a difficult spot to be in,” said Council member Dr. Monica Newton. “It requires creativity.”

Newton and other council members propose decreasing the budget each cycle by $1 million per year to build up reserves.

Council President Geraldine Allen said the city has some very tough times ahead of it. “I am very concerned,” she said.