Kalamazoo Gazette (Michigan)
BY EMILY MONACELLI
KALAMAZOO — Kalamazoo recruiters have plans to participate in three career fairs this month to try to fill the first 38 vacancies created by the city’s Early Retirement Incentive, as more than 200 people — including some longtime administrators — leave their city posts.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety representatives planned to be at a career fair targeted for military veterans Wednesday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.
The city is in hiring mode, according to Jerome Post, the city’s human resources director.
“We’re currently posting positions as they become available,” he said. “We anticipate a wave of positions to become available within the next month.”
Those positions span a “wide range” of city departments, Post said. “Almost every department will have at least one opening,” he said.
Two other career fairs set for this month are closer to home. Kalamazoo Valley Community College will host a career fair from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at its campus in Texas Township, and Mt. Zion Baptist Church is sponsoring a career fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 31 at the church.
Representatives from the city’s human resources and public safety departments will be at both Kalamazoo job fairs with information on the city’s job openings and qualifications required, according to a city press release.
The city also will participate in a job fair at the Northside Association for Community Development in May.
The Early Retirement Incentive was announced last fall as a way to cut the city’s workforce by 10 percent and help close a $6 million budget deficit. The city’s effort to fill an initial 38 job openings results from the first 58 city employees leaving as a part of the early retirement.
The city will not replace all of the 219 employees that are leaving through the program. The city administration during a special meeting of the city commission Monday will present a restructuring plan that includes future workforce numbers.
The city currently has one job opening listed under its job opportunities — a position for a part-time bus driver at an hourly salary of $15.03 to $17.13. The city said it will regularly update job opportunities online at www.kalamazoocity.org under the “job opportunities” tab on the left side.
At the beginning of the year, city officials met to discuss how they would restructure departments. Post said they are still in the process of restructuring, and that the city commission will hear a presentation on it Monday.
City commissioners already have been briefed on the plan, according to Commissioner Bob Cinabro, who said he was impressed with the way the city administration has handled the early retirement incentive.
Commissioner Barb Miller said the plan includes dates of when employees will leave their positions, how city departments will be configured and administration’s rationale.
“Employees right now are kind of on pins and needles because they don’t know what’s going to happen to their department, and they don’t know what’s going to happen with a new city manager,” Miller said. “Change is difficult.”
City Manager Kenneth Collard has said he is taking the early retirement and will leave in January 2014.
“You really just don’t know until you start doing it whether it’s the right thing or not,” Miller said of the restructuring plan. “But I think they’ve really thought it out as much as they can.”
Vice Mayor Hannah McKinney said department heads incorporated the Early Retirement Incentive with a budget reduction plan and were able to answer the questions of who will be leaving and when, how they will be able to maintain core services and how the city will function with fewer people and less money.
“I’ve thought all the way around that the ERI is a really brilliant move,” McKinney said.
This new plan addresses the problem of a workforce of baby boomers approaching retirement and the $6 million budget shortfall, she said. But the Early Retirement Incentive only was an option because the city’s pension system was over-funded, McKinney said.
“It’s a huge number of people, so you have to figure out who it is, what their skills are and you have to allow people to leave in a way that doesn’t hurt the city,” she said. “That’s what we’ve done. And it took a lot of thought to do that.”
Commissioner David Anderson said the city was faced with two decisions — extensive layoffs or having people leave voluntarily, which he said was a “much more humane response to the decreasing budget.”
The reconfiguration allows city officials to significantly rethink how they will provide services and what the focus will be.
“It’s an opportunity to loosen the shackles of ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ kind of thinking,” he said.
Anderson said Collard and his department heads have done a good job of charting a course that will allow the city to maintain core services.
In the meantime, “property values are diminishing and state resources seemingly will continue to diminish as well,” Anderson said of city’s long-term fiscal outlook.
“At the end of the day, Kalamazoo as a city has got to be a place where people want to be … or we’re going to be faced with worse scenarios in the future,” he said. “This isn’t the be all and end all.”
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