East Palo Alto to close city offices two hours early on Friday afternoons

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Published in San Jose Mercury News on Sept. 20, 2011
By Bonnie Eslinger, Daily News Staff Writer

Starting this week, East Palo Alto City Hall will close two hours early Friday afternoons as part of a cost cutting measure that results in a 5 percent pay cut for city employees.

With the exception of police, all city employees will see their weekly hours reduced from 40 to 38 until the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2012. The change in weekly hours has been written into supplemental contract agreements that will go to the East Palo Alto City Council tonight for approval.

Finance Director Brenda Olwin said the city meanwhile will explore ways to generate additional revenue, such as raising fees for staff services, licenses and permits.

“I don’t know the last time we raised our fees,” Olwin said. “We want to see what happens when we get our fees up to a more reasonable level, a more comparable level to what other cities charge.”

While the budget approved in July has East Palo Alto on course to balance its $30.4 million budget, the city doesn’t have any money left to replenish its $1.6 million reserve, Olwin said. Plus, the city must pay $2 million to the state this year to save its redevelopment agency from getting dismantled.

With about 50 city employees — including accountants, office assistants, code enforcement officers, maintenance workers, managers and engineers — working two hours less a week, East Palo Alto will save $382,000 this fiscal year, Olwin said.

Though reducing the schedules of police isn’t a viable option, she said the city is negotiating with their union for other possible concessions.

Starting Friday, city offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. Employees will earn regular time — not overtime — for any extra hour or two worked in a week.

Khanh Weinberg, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union, said the union agreed to the concession because it helps the city while minimizing the impact on the community.

“We hope the city will get back on its feet so that workers can go back to providing full-time services that the public deserves,” she said.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com

If you go

WHAT: The East Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to approve agreements reducing most city employees work schedules by two hours.
WHEN: Tonight at 7:30
WHERE: City Hall, 2415 University Ave., East Palo Alto
MORE INFO: www.cityofepa.org

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