Already operating thin after a wave of staff cuts in recent years, Metro Public Works could be forced to end several popular services if asked to reduce its budget by another 7.5 percent this time around.
Among potential cuts are the elimination of eight recycling drop-off centers; the closing of the Bordeaux Composting Center, where residents take brush and leaves for recycling; and a decrease in the number of streets that would be cleared by the department during snow or icy weather.
In all, a 7.5 percent cut would reduce the department’s budget by $3 million and force 38 employee layoffs. Department staff has already been reduced from 522 employees in 2004 to 363 employees today.
The grim news came from Billy Lynch, director of Public Works, as he sat down with Mayor Karl Dean and others from the mayor’s office Wednesday to discuss the effect of a 7.5 percent cut for the next fiscal year, which all department heads have been instructed to analyze.
“This hurts us,” Lynch said. “It really does.”
The cuts raised by Lynch, however, are far from set in stone as Dean prepares to hand the Metro Council a finalized budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year by May 1.
“No decision has been made on what percentage of reductions are going to be made,” Dean stressed. “This is just a useful step for everybody to go through to determine where we can find savings.”
Nonetheless, with the loss of the department’s eight lowest-producing recycling drop-off centers, only four would remain — centers in Bellevue, Hermitage, Elysian Fields and at Hillsboro High School. Closures could disturb a program that delivers money to Metro schools based on the number of weight collected at each center.
According to Lynch, cuts could also mean the closing of both the Omohundro and Anderson Lane residential waste and recycling facilities; the elimination of the department’s environmental education instructor; and the loss of eight employees in the engineering division and two workers in the safety and finance division, among other job losses.
Dean recognized Public Works has endured some of the biggest hits in recent years and said his goal is to ensure that Metro is providing the most services it can to the public.
“We’ll work our way through this and come up with a number that we can live with,” Dean said.