As expected, 36 Pima County Department of Transportation employees received pink slips this week. While news of the layoffs was staggering to those employees directly affected, it could have been prevented, according to Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller.
Last year, Miller warned that layoffs would likely occur “due to mismanagement by Pima County’s administration.” On Thursday, Miller noted in a press release that the “current status of Pima County’s finances,” which forced the layoffs, was “predictable and wholly avoidable.”
Miller has urged County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to take steps to avoid layoffs. Miller went so far as to offer plans to trim nonessential programs and expenses in her Alternative Budget Proposal. Miller says she had “hoped common sense solutions would be considered by her fellow supervisors and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.”
“Rather than consider humane and common-sense alternatives, the majority of Board members and Mr. Huckelberry sought bond approvals from weary and cash strapped Pima County residents,” stated Miller. “Despite the fact that the residents cannot and will not support incurring more debt, County leaders spent hard-earned tax dollars promoting efforts to raise taxes.”
Huckelberry’s House of Cards began to collapse before voters soundly rejected a bond package in the November 2018 General Election. Insiders advise that Huckelberry had hoped to cover his out-of-control spending with the 2018 voter-approved bond funds. When the voters denied his scheme Huckelberry pivoted and called on the Board to approve a speculative investment scheme in Kino Sports Park. The scheme was approved by the Board while knowing that layoffs were planned.
“It is extremely unfortunate the problem of excess headcount in the Pima County department of transportation wasn’t addressed long before it became necessary to take action that results in disruptive employee layoffs,” stated Supervisor Miller. “I have proposed reducing the headcount in the department of transportation for years because the majority of the pavement preservation work was outsourced. The department of transportation budget had grown to $43 million for salaries and overhead. It makes no sense to have grown the department to the point that HURF/VLT monies meant to be used for road repairs were simply funding the department salaries and overhead.”
“I submitted a plan last year to accomplish this same result through attrition vs hiring more employees as retirements occurred. I proposed a hiring freeze as well as moving employees to other jobs as retirements occurred. Had this plan been implemented funds could have been reallocated or employees relocated to other departments without the need for layoffs. This lack of planning coupled with the continual nonessential spending has caused the need for employee layoffs.”
“I am deeply saddened for the employees whose lives have been devastated and I only wish this could have been done differently,” concluded Supervisor Miller.
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