By DAVID BORAKS
Monday was a somber day in town offices as the town manager unveiled a layoff and restructuring plan that employees have been dreading for weeks.
At least 19 of the town’s 54 full- and part-time employees got layoff notices, though Town Manager Leamon Brice said those employees are being invited to reapply for new positions created in the restructuring. Other staff members – including the planning director – are being reassigned or will see their job descriptions and duties change. And one – the Parks & Recreation director – plans to leave later this year.
The plan takes effect with the new budget year July 1 and will shrink the town staff by a net 7 full- and part-time positions and save $243,400 next year. And it will bring some surprising personnel changes in Town Hall. [Update: Town officials have since said the actual savings is 2 full-time equivalent positions, in part because of the need to hire additional part-time firefighters this year.]
Mr. Brice said his goal is to have all new positions filled and
the reorganization complete by June 30.
Mayor John Woods called Monday’s moves “unprecedented” and “painful.” But he said they mirror steps being taken in business and in other local governments as leaders cope with a weak economy. “We are no different,” he said. “Although these changes are difficult and painful, I am confident that we will come out of this stronger and better focused on how we can best meet our goals.”
Mr. Brice said the restructuring would refocus town government on new priorities, including economic development and creating a healthy community. And it would update a town organizational structure that Mr. Brice said has become outdated.
“We looked at this as a total reorganization, changing everything from top to bottom,” Mr. Brice said. (See the text of the town’s announcement at the end of this article.)
The restructuring will cut the town’s head count from 54 full- and part-time employees to 47 as of June 30, according to Town Finance Director Eric Hardy. Essential services, including police and fire, won’t be affected. (The head counts do not include about 20 part-time firefighters.)
PAINS FROM CABLE SYSTEM
Discussions about a potential restructuring began in January as a cost-cutting exercise. They were driven in part by financial struggles at the MI-Connection communications system, which Davidson owns with the Town of Mooresville. Mr. Brice warned employees then that layoffs might be needed so the town could shore up MI-Connection’s finances.
In January, MI-Connection told the two towns it needed a cash infusion of $576,000 to cover a shortfall this budget year. It’s expected to face an even larger shortfall in the 2010-11 fiscal year as higher debt payments kick in.
In February Davidson’s Town Board came up with its $180,000 share of the cable system shortfall by cutting the current year’s budget. The cuts included laying off one part-time employee and putting off filling two vacancies – a police officer and a full-time police department clerk.
It’s still not clear how much the town might have to kick in next year. Town Manager Leamon Brice said the town has yet to see a budget from MI-Connection. At a meeting last Thursday, system officials promised to have a budget by this Friday so Mooresville and Davidson can plot their 2010-11 budgets. [Largely because of that delay, Davidson has put off its May Town Board meeting for a week, to May 18. That meeting will include presentation of the manager's proposed budget.]
Other financial pressures on the town include a pressing need to begin work on a new fire station on the east side of town. That could cost $4 million.
Also behind the original cost-cutting were projections that the town’s revenues this year might be flat because of a lack of growth in property tax revenues and a wide range of other town taxes and fees. The good news, Mr. Brice said Monday, is that tax and fee revenue appears stable for now. “We’re hitting our (revenue) numbers so far,” he said, “but they’re still at ’07 levels.”
And that means Mr. Brice had to look at adjusting the size and shape of his organization.
Mr. Brice told DavidsonNews.net that his efforts evolved into a broader restructuring as he tried to incorporate the goals of both elected town commissioners and citizens who worked over the past two years developing the town’s new Comprehensive Plan.
Town board members have made economic development and the health of both residents and town government a priority, he noted. And the restructuring also will help modernize Davidson’s town government, he said, so it can help carry out the Comprehensive Plan.
“I think our comp plan and goals are in line with where the world needs to go. And I think after this, our organization will be in alignment and equipped to move toward sustainability and health and wellness. … I really do … as hard as it is,” Mr. Brice said.
As mentioned, the layoffs and restructuring won’t affect police and fire protection. It does affect the number of positions and job descriptions in other departments. Here’s a more detailed look:
- ADMINISTRATION – The positions of the Town Hall receptionist and Town Clerk/Finance officer are being eliminated. Some of those duties will be assigned to an administrative assistant, while a part-time receptionist will be added in the police department. The change also means that Town Hall will shift from having two receptionists – one in the administrative department and one in the police department – to just a single receptionist at the police department service window.The accounting technician and finance officer positions are eliminated, and the town plans to hire a full-time accountant.The town’s part-time communications director was among those who received layoff notices. The town will create a new full-time position that will include the communications director’s duties as well as added responsibility for implementing a town marketing plan as recommended by consultants in March.
- Meanwhile, Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum and Finance Director Eric Hardy will get added duties overseeing various town departments. Ms. Blobaum will have responsibility for areas including parks & recreation and planning while Mr. Hardy will oversee police, fire and public works.Giving more operational responsibility to the assistant town manager and finance director will allow Mr. Brice to “get out of the weeds a little bit, look at the broader vision and get out and work in the region a bit more, and focus on the Town Board,” he said.
- PARKS AND RECREATION – The overhaul will pare back and refocus the Parks & Recreation Department. Event planning, formerly handled by a Parks & Rec employee, will be outsourced. And Parks & Recreation eventually could revise its programming to emphasize “health and wellness,” Mr. Brice said.With all the changes, Parks Director Steve Fraher has decided to seek a new job elsewhere, Mr. Brice said. But he’ll stay on through summer, along with the current special events coordinator and athletics supervisor, to ensure a smooth transition. The town will conduct a search for a new Parks & Recreation director.
- PLANNING – One town planner position and the department’s GIS technician position will be combined, eliminating one job. Current employees in those jobs will be invited to apply for the opening. Meanwhile, the department’s leadership will change. Current planning director Kris Krider will shift into a newly created role as Economic Development Manager, guiding development projects through the planning process and working with Downtown Director Sandy Lemons to help recruit and promote business. Town Planner Lauren Blackburn will become the new planning manager, focusing on community and long-range planning as well as implementing the Comprehensive Plan. The planning department assistant will keep her job, which now includes grant-writing duties.
- PUBLIC WORKS – All six Public Works Department employees were among those who got layoff notices Monday. The town plans to outsource some public works activities, such as mowing. Six positions will remain, and current employees will be able to reapply for the new jobs, though the nature of the jobs is changing. Mr. Brice said new job descriptions could require such skills as concrete finishing, carpentry and plumbing. He said the town hopes to do “more of our own work and raise the level of service we provide.”
Local governance has come a long way since 20 years ago, when Mr. Brice became the town manager. At that time, the manager and town officials took more hands-on roles. Mr. Brice recalled how he and former Mayor Randy Kincaid helped landscape the then-new Town Hall at 216 S. Main St. “He and I moved the shrubs from the old town hall to this one. It’s been 20 years, but we did,” he said.
He’s looking forward to the overhaul, though it has been difficult. “I’m excited about it, quite frankly. While it’s not pleasant, the promise and potential of it is exciting, I’ll put it that way,” he said.
March 19, 2010, “How to solve town budget woes: Restructure, manager says.”
Jan. 26, 2010, “Will cable system’s financial woes hit town budget?”
TEXT OF TOWN ANNOUNCEMENT
New Direction for Davidson
Reductions in workforce, refocus on goals, services
For Immediate Release
Davidson, N.C. , May 4, 2010 – Recent economic conditions have required management at the Town of Davidson to look at how they do business; they are not immune to current financial difficulties. For the past several months, they have worked on crafting a more efficient and focused organization. The comprehensive plan and the town board goals have helped guide how to make several organizational changes. The result is a new direction for the town.
“With the emphasis now on economic development, sustainability and health and fitness, the town’s organization has been restructured to support these goals and ensure the correct people with the proper skills are in place to implement these goals moving forward, “ said Leamon Brice, town manager. “We are creating a different organization that will allow us to work better and more efficiently.”
Davidson – Open for Business
One of the Board of Commissioner’s main goals is economic development and that can be seen clearly within the new organization. An Economic Development Manager position has been created to shepherd development projects through the planning process and guide Downtown Manager Sandy Lemons in promoting business, especially in downtown. Current Planning Director Kris Krider will assume the new role. The two will work in conjunction with the Lake Norman EDC attracting businesses to Davidson and then simplifying and explaining the local planning process. Several services will be contracted out. Using an independent mowing contractor will allow existing Public Works staff to focus on more skilled activities, resulting in more beautiful town gateways and downtown. Other outsourced services include management of Beaver Dam and special events. The town will also have a full time public information officer who will focus on creating marketing materials and supporting the economic development recommendations from the Arnett-Muldrow marketing plan.
A Sustainable Community
The reorganization calls for the creation of a Planning Manager, to be filled by Lauren Blackburn. This position will focus on community and long range planning and be responsible for managing the planning department and implementing the comprehensive plan. The goals of the comprehensive plan are broad and call for many changes to ensure the town stays on the right path. This new position will ensure the fulfillment of the vision of the 120+ citizens who worked for the past 24 months on the comprehensive plan.
A Healthy Community
At their January retreat, the Board of Commissioners approved a series of bold goals including the goal of becoming a healthy and fit community. This vision will be implemented in several departments, including the Parks & Recreation Department. All programs offered will reflect the goals of health & wellness, fit community, healthy eating, sustainability, environmentalism, etc.
The Town Manager met with staff on May 3, 2010 to notify them about individual changes in status. Overall, the reorganization plan will impact at least 19 of the town’s current 48 positions either through, reassignment, reclassification or reduction in force. Most employees affected by the reduction in force will be terminated as of June 30, 2010. The reorganization will save $243,400 annually.
The following is a more detailed breakdown of changes by department.
• All Department Managers will report to either the Assistant Town Manager or the Finance Director.
• To provide administrative support, new duties have been assigned to the Administrative Assistant including responsibility for Human Resource functions and Town Clerk duties. This position will be reclassified to reflect those changes in responsibility.
• The Public Information Officer will change from a part-time to a full-time position and will be assigned marketing responsibilities consistent with the recommendations of the recent Arnett-Muldrow Marketing and Branding Study.
• The Accounting Technician and Finance Officer positions are being eliminated and the associated accounting duties combined in an Accountant position.
• A part-time Receptionist position will be created to provide customer service by telephone and in person to visitors to Town Hall. This position is being transferred to the Police Department and will report to Chief Miller.
• The volunteers and part-time staff in the Fire Department are not impacted by the reorganization plan.
Park & Recreation
• A transition plan has been developed to insure that services will continue while new positions are being filled. For this reason the current Director, Special Event Coordinator, and Athletics Supervisor will not be terminated as of June 30, but will stay on by mutual consent during the summer until a new Director is hired. Additional positions that may be impacted by the reduction in force include some part-time recreation assistants.
• One planner and one GIS Tech position will be combined into a Planner 1 position.
• The remaining planner position will be reclassified as Planning Manager and will focus on community and long-range planning and be responsible for managing the Planning Department as well as implementing the Comprehensive Plan.
• The current Planning Director position is being reclassified to Economic Development Manager to focus more effort on economic development and shepherding development projects through the planning processes. The position will supervise the Downtown Manager to provide better coordination for all economic development and downtown Davidson priorities and activities.
• The Administrative Assistant position is being reclassified to reflect grant-writing duties that were assigned last year.
• There are no reductions in law enforcement positions in the Police Department.
• The new part-time Receptionist position and Public Records Clerk in the Police Department will provide one focal point for visitors to Town Hall and for citizens who call for services.
• The six full-time crew positions will be advertised, and all current staff will have an opportunity to apply for the new positions.
For more information visit www.ci.davidson.nc.us.