Q & A: Why not layoff some employees?

I do sometimes get emails like this and try to offer a respectful response.  I removed the name of the sender.

Question:  Why not lay off some building safety employees?

With only 8 residential building permits last month does this mean you’ll be able to lay off some excess workers from the city payroll?

Who decides when government employees are layed off, is it from the department itself or does the city council have any input?

Thank you for your thoughts.


Answer:  Layoffs are seldom a good decision for a number of reasons.


I wanted to take a moment to respond to your note.  We recently had a child so I am catching up.  We have made staffing adjustments in the area by not filling a couple of positions as the came open.  We also have many employees out there cross trained.  While residential new construction, is down rental inspections are up, and we also have a number of larger commercial projects under way.

Layoffs are about the worse route to go for a number of reasons.  First we have trimmed government quite a bit just through not keeping up with growth.  Not many realize that we are 17% smaller than 2003 per capita.  In fact, if it wasn’t for all the state aid and credit cuts that we received, we would have seen property taxes decrease significantly.  Our per capita staffing is 10% less than a decade ago.  If we did have capacity to further reduce staff, early retirements are a far better route.  This actually costs less, because even with layoff you can expect to pay severance and then unemployment for a long time.  Finally, these are people out there, mostly college educated, hard working, and honest.  The last thing I want to do is lay off someone unless it absolutely necessary.  Based on the workload, and reduced staffing, it is not.  Besides for affecting the life of a professional, it also poisons the well for remaining employees.

The council can effectively make these decision because we control the budget.

I know there is alot of anger over government and government workers, but here in Rochester (and most places) I think much of it is undeserved.  I think we live in a great city that has done the best it can with a bad partner in the state of Minnesota.  Layoffs are always possible but I seek to avoid them if at all possible.


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