EL CERRITO -- The City Council, faced with some unexpected losses in revenue, will attempt to save money with a program aimed at inducing some senior employees to retire early.
The program, approved by the council Tuesday evening, will offer a group of 15 workers who have expressed interest in the deal two years of service credit toward their pensions in exchange for their resignations.
The city hopes to save by hiring younger, lower-paid workers to replace them or by not filling the positions.
The program is aimed at saving at least $150,000 in 2012-13 with a possible $1.65 million in savings over 20 years, city Administrative Services Director Mary Dodge told the council.
The median age of the workers is 60, with a median annual salary of $66,000.
"This is an opportunity to see if there are different ways to look at shared services, increasing hours of part-time workers, taking advantage of job classifications that are cheaper," said City Manager Scott Hanin.
The city is projecting a loss of $300,000 in property tax revenues in 2012-13 based on revised assessment figures from the Contra Costa County Assessor's Office as a result of Prop. 8, which allows a reduction in assessments as property values fall.
El Cerrito is also involved in a lawsuit over how much it must refund to the state following the dissolution of city and county redevelopment agencies to help balance the state budget.
Mayor Bill Jones and council members Ann Cheng and Janet Abelson voted in favor.
Three residents also expressed reservations about the buyouts and said the council should seek a detailed report from the city's independent Financial Advisory Board.
"We need solid figures based on something," said Ken Berndt.
Resident and business owner Denise Sangster called the move "a serious financial mistake" and demanded an analysis of similar incentive programs the city has offered over the past 20 years.
"We need to see a full cost review, the (staff) reorganization plan and the present result of the 2004 and 2009 buyouts," Sangster said.
In other action, the council declined to exercise an option to appoint the three candidates who have filed to run for three seats in the November election rather than place their names on the ballot.
Lyman and former council members Jan Bridges and Mark Friedman will run unopposed on the ballot, with Jones and Cheng not seeking re-election.
The argument against an election came down to cost. Appointing the candidates in advance would save the $22,000 it takes to put the names on the ballot.
Jones, however, said he likes the electorate getting a chance to know the candidates.
Abelson agreed. "It feels uncomfortable to me to not let people know who is going to be on the ballot," she said. "An election gives opponents a chance to put together a (write-in) coalition."
The council also agreed to impose fees for disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes at the city's recycling center for non-West Contra Costa residents. These customers will pay $3 per CFL and 50 cents per foot for the tubes beginning Sept. 1.
"These are easily broken and not easy to recycle," said recycling center manager Garth Schultz. "West County residents already pay on their garbage bills, but we have clients from all over the area."
Review salary and other compensation received by El Cerrito staff on our Bay Area Public Employees Database at www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area