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Healthcare act brings Claremont city staffing changes

City officials will also be evaluating changes to city staffing levels in order to effectively handle the looming employee mandates of the newly implemented Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

Through the ACA, employers will be required to offer healthcare benefits to 95 percent of all full-time employees, which the act defines as those working 30 or more hours a week. Those who fail to comply by January 2015 will be fined.

Since the 2009 full-time staff reduction, the city of Claremont has heavily relied on part-time workers at 20-32 hours a week. Full-time has been defined as 38 or 40 hours a week of work, explained City Manager Colin Tudor.

In order to meet ACA mandates in the most affordable manner, the Claremont City Council unanimously approved an organizational restructure to be implemented within the next eight months, prior to the adoption of the city’s next budget.

Current part-time Claremont staffers will have their schedules reduced to fewer than 30 hours per week. To accommodate these reductions, two positions will be bumped up to full-time employment. For the five police aides having their positions reduced, the council approved the reclassification of one part-time aide to full-time work. In addition to the possibility of hiring more part-time workers to make up for the reductions to the Community and Human Services Department, which heavily relies on part-time work, the program coordinator for the committee on aging will be reclassified as a full-time site coordinator as well. Both positions will cost the city $98,303, to be taken from the city’s Maintenance of Operations Reserve.

It’s not a permanent fix, but a creative temporary solution, Mayor Opanyi Nasiali noted.

“We are in the process of trying to solve a problem, also doing so within the constraints of the resources we have,” he said. 

As the council made reductions, it also approved a notable addition with the hire of a full-time landscape supervisor to handle the city’s tree maintenance duties, landscape management as well as other tasks. In the past several years, the city has relied on outside agencies for arborist services.

Ray Fowler and Linda Heilpern were pleased with the city’s recent efforts to address residents’ desire for a full-time city arborist. However, neither believed hiring a landscape supervisor—who, it was noted, is not yet a certified arborist—is the answer.

“Two weeks ago we didn’t have the money for an urban forester, but now we are putting into the budget over $100,000 to hire a person…who doesn’t yet have his basic first step authorization. He has an excellent record and background, but…an urban forester does a great deal more.”

Councilmembers Sam Pedroza and Joe Lyons noted they would like to see the city consider a certified arborist in the coming months, but in the meantime the council unanimously approved the landscape supervisor as a temporary solution. With the council’s approval, the city will also spend a maximum of $40,000 to contract a management consulting firm to analyze the current operation of the Community and Human Services Department.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Mr. Pedroza said. “I’m hoping that our community is hearing that we are not ignoring the comments that are being made and that there is an effort here to try to incorporate [the comments] as we move forward with these policies.”

 

City surplus provides cushion

As the city continues to toy with a potential water bond and other multi-million dollar expenditures, a recent budget surplus is providing the city with a chance to save for the future.

Finance Director Adam Pirrie announced a surplus of $1.3 million at the close of the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The spare funds are a result of “better than expected revenues in several categories including property tax, sales tax, transient occupancy taxes, utility user taxes and building permit and plan check fees, according to Mr. Pirrie.

The city will use the funds to pay $300,000 to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System; $3,000 to the Equipment and Facility Revolving Reserve; $300,000 to the Maintenance of Operations Reserve and the remaining to the general fund reserve.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

 

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