City worker ranks down from 543 to 496 in year

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 15, 2002

Joan Smith, a Vicksburg resident, watches city employees Cecil Cameron, left, and William Eastman working on the sewer line under Washington Street Friday. (The Vicksburg Post/Jon Giffin)

[07/14/02]One year since the current City of Vicksburg administration took office, the number of employees is down about 9 percent, about a third of the goal set by Mayor Laurence Leyens.

The number of city employees has gone from 543 to 496, and Leyens has pledged to reduce the total cost of government by 30 percent before the end of his four-year term.

“I’m pleased that I was able to walk into a mess and reduce things so quickly,” Leyens said.

The city has about 140 seasonal employees including lifeguards, umpires and scorekeepers and 36 part-time workers.

Some of the biggest reductions have come in the police department where the total number of employees has gone from 137 to 103. Of that, about 76 are police officers, down from about 109 a year ago.

Police Chief Tommy Moffett, who took over the department in October, said having fewer officers has not affected police protection in the city.

“The same number of officers are on the street today as there were a year ago, but now you won’t find as many people sitting in the office or clocking in and going home,” Moffett said.

He said he has not set out to cut the number of officers and was never given instructions to cut. He said no ideal number of officers has been set.

The decrease in officers is attributed to retirements, resignations and the firing of several officers. Moffett said the loss of most of the officers has not hurt the department.

“To tell you the truth, I haven’t missed them,” Moffett said.

The $29.4 million city budget approved in September called for a cut in the number of officers from 100 to 74. Personnel costs for the police department were also reduced by $1.4 million in the budget while pay for officers was increased.

In total, the city’s personnel costs were reduced by 11 percent in the new budget.

“What we’re going to focus on now is productivity as a theme instead of reducing the numbers,” Leyens said.

One way the city hopes to increase productivity is through a new pay system expected to be adopted by the city board Monday. The new pay scale would base raises for all city employees on a merit system.

Similar pay scales have been introduced in the police and fire departments with mixed reactions from workers.

“What we’re hoping is that the merit system will increase productivity,” Leyens said. “Because we’re trying to get this work done that should have been done years ago, we’re asking people to do a lot more work.”

Leyens said he expects the new pay scale will also cut the number of employees. He said the city could operate with about 400 workers.

City budgets have been spiraling upward since gambling arrived in Vicksburg in the early 1990s. In 1990, the city budget was $9.6 million. Since then, spending, including payroll, has tripled.