City announces employee layoffs amid reorganization

February 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Officials announced cuts to the city workforce — including six layoffs — Feb. 1, as City Hall launches a broad reorganization.

Overall, leaders reduced staff through layoffs, a severance program and vacancies. The total includes five positions eliminated through voluntary separations and two vacant positions.

Because limited funding is available for capital projects, officials did not need as many employees for engineering and inspection functions. In November, officials announced plans to start employee layoffs in February.

The city also plans to add three positions for a beefed-up economic development effort. The plan is for Keith Niven, the longtime Major Development Review Team manager, to serve as economic development director and hire economic development managers.

“Economic vitality is one of the three key components of sustainability, and expanding the footprint of resource management will enable balanced growth to occur with a focus on our community’s natural resources,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said in a statement.

The changes came months after a Seattle consultant delivered a report detailing City Hall operations.

The study focused on efficiency and effectiveness. Moss Adams discovered different cultures, expectations and management styles across municipal departments. The also report pointed out the differences in coordination, scheduling and tracking across departments.

The reductions’ impact on the city budget remains unclear, although officials’ focus in the reorganization is less on cost and more on operations. The total Issaquah municipal budget is $85.7 million — including about $36 million for police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

The changes at City Hall did not stop at the employee shakeup.

Officials renamed the Resource Conservation Office as the Office of Sustainability and it shifted from the Public Works Engineering Department to the executive office.

The city could also hire additional administrative staffers to shift paperwork and other clerical duties from high-level managers.

The plan recommends for Niven’s successor at the Major Development Review Team — the department-within-a-department focused on planning in the urban villages and Rowley Properties’ business district property — to be a planner.

Officials intended to disband the team — established before the building boom in the Issaquah Highlands — last year, but ongoing large-scale projects mean the unit is necessary through 2012 or 2013 to handle ongoing projects, such as the planned Bellevue College campus in the highlands.

The municipal workforce includes about 200 employees. Officials last laid off employees in late 2009 — and scaled back capital projects and trimmed expenses elsewhere across municipal government — in order to save about $7 million. The layoffs of 10 employees came after a hiring freeze and a voluntary severance program.

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