MERIDEN — The city is still negotiating with labor unions over furlough days included in the City Council’s revised budget.
The council cut a total of roughly $228,000 from all departments, excluding police and fire, and said they hoped the savings would be accomplished through each employee taking three furlough days.
Furloughs require agreements with unions, though, and city employee unions hoped to reduce the number of days with a counter offer that suggested other savings, said Larry Dorman, a spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. AFSCME includes unions representing a total of about 160 Meriden employees, including City Hall and public works employees, Dorman said.
The city rejected the counter offer on Wednesday in a letter sent by Human Resources Director Marci Nogueira.
“Based on our thorough review of the counter proposals, the City finds the counter proposals unacceptable,” Nogueira said in the letter to union representatives. If the parties aren’t able to reach an agreement, the city will likely need to lay off some employees.
“Since we have not come to an agreement,” Nogueira’s letter stated, “the City will be shifting focus to exercising our right to engage in a reduction in force to address our fiscal responsibilities. We will be in contact with you upon finalization of the plan.”
Nogueira couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Both sides said negotiations are ongoing and expressed optimism a deal could be reached.
“The process isn’t complete yet,” said City Manager Tim Coon, who started Sept. 4.
Dorman said union officials “hope we can find a resolution that protects services and avoids layoffs because layoffs will be absolutely destructive and detrimental to the city. We're operating at barebones as it is.”
“The members of city unions are frustrated and concerned,” Dorman added. “They care about the city, they care about the services they provide to Meriden residents and businesses, and they want to find a solution that works for everyone.”
In passing a revised budget, councilors said if the city could not negotiate furlough days, department heads would need to find other areas to cut or lay off employees. The council cut a total of roughly $1.5 million from the originally adopted budget, including $250,000 from both police and fire, after 6,000 residents voted in July to reject the original budget because they felt taxes were too high.
The counter offer made by unions, Dorman said, included some furlough days “as well as other savings ideas,” which he declined to go into detail about.
Department heads said Friday they are waiting to receive notification from the city before moving forward with cuts.
“For me as a department head, I’m kind of in limbo,” Health Director Lea Crown said.