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Prioritize taxpayers

By Staff | Sep 12, 2009

Cape Coral City Council is contemplating shaving the municipal work week as a way of saving some $3 million in payroll costs next year.

It’s an interesting concept.

The board discussed cutting employee hours from 40 to 32, 36 or 38, with the consensus being that looking at a 36-hour week as a way to save money and mitigate the proposed property tax rate increase a mite had enough merit to explore.

We agree, and we commend council for asking City Manager Terry Stewart to do some research. We’re a little confounded, though, at council’s approach.

In the real world – i.e. the business, or private, sector – the client, the customer, the person whose monetary contribution is needed to pay the bills, comes first. That means meeting the need to cut expenses in a way that does not cut services or the quality of product beyond what the market will allow.

Of course consumers of public services – taxpayers -have little choice but to pay up anyway. Which may be why council’s preference is a four-day work week of nine-hour days with all city services save fire, police and public works shut down on Fridays.

Cutting services 20 percent to realize a 10 percent reduction in weekly hourly and salary costs does not make sense to us – nor should it make sense to our elected officials.

We suggest a private-sector approach – address the 36-hour work week concept from a business perspective. That means scheduling the hours to meet “customer” demand.

That might mean four seven-hour days and one eight, with some employees starting their short days an hour later and others ending theirs an hour earlier.

It could mean staggered half days on the slowest day or days for a particular department.

Or it may well mean closing a particular office on, say, Monday, if that day draws little traffic.

But it certainly does not mean shutting the city down one day a week so workers can enjoy a three-day weekend in exchange for the loss of four hours of pay, much as most of us, admittedly, would love to be offered that option should our bosses haul out a similar scenario.

We ask council to put the taxpayers first.

Understand, even if council opts to cut service days by 20 percent, property owners still are looking at a 70 percent or so increase in the property tax rate.

Certainly, think the short-week concept through. But don’t ask the taxpayers to sacrifice twice.

– Breeze editorial