What is next for Oak Harbor now that they have declared a fiscal emergency?

Author:Cliff Howard

From watching what has happened in other cities that have gone through fiscal emergencies it looks like Oak Harbor may be in for some tough times. I question whether Oak Harbor is actually under a true fiscal emergency or if this issue has only been trumped up by the City Council for some unknown and possibly political reason. But it has been declared and now the city will need to live with the repercussions.

With the city having quite a few open employment positions available it is unclear that these will be filled. If they are not essential positions you would think that under a fiscal emergency that these would not be filled. We may even be faced with layoffs of our current city employees lowering the level of service that we receive from the city.

Health and benefits to employees could be cut drastically. As Oak Harbor has what is considered to be a Cadillac insurance policy for it’s employees how much and what portions of these benefits will be cut? How will the current employees react when they find their benefits cut to the bone?

Renegotiation of contracts could occur for all of those that are employed by the city, cuts in wages and benefits could greatly alter the current employment situation. Most union contracts allow for renegotiation of those contracts once a state of fiscal emergency has been declared by a city.

Investment on infrastructure could be cut, potholes, street repairs and maintenance could be cut to the bone.

The ramifications of declaring a fiscal emergency are quite dire. If we are truly in a fiscal emergency these cuts and more may be necessary.

I would question the City Council over whether or not this declaration of a fiscal emergency is fitting for the situation that we are currently in. After reading the City Finance Administrators report on the state of our city it is truly questionable whether or not they are being honest with the citizens and employees of Oak Harbor.

You can view his report here.

We will have to wait and see what the City Council does. If they fill the open employment positions, do not cut employee benefits and renegotiate contracts we can assume that this was a political power play on their part that had very little to do with an actual fiscal emergency that the city is in. Of course they could even though the city is not in a true fiscal emergency only be using this as an excuse to strip the city workers of their benefits.

Either way it is not good news for our city, we are either facing layoffs and benefit cuts or knowing the fact that the City Council has declared a fiscal emergency for strictly political purposes which will cause a lack of confidence in our city Council should they at some time need to declare a real fiscal emergency.

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2 comments

  1. avatar

    The first position I would cut is the position of the so-called “Environmental Educator”: http://www.oakharbor.org/page.cfm?pageId=142 and then, I’d zero out all $$ for going for public art and disband the Arts Commission: http://www.oakharbor.org/page.cfm?pageId=382

    Also, I’d be looking at building the smallest and least expensive new waste water treatment plant, but since it appears the city is “zero for three” in this short list of actionable items, methinks the so-called “emergency” is a scam.

    1. avatar

      There are a lot of things that the city should be doing if they are truely in an emergency. It is interesting that none of these cuts or actions have taken place yet.

      What is even more interesting that if you read Doug Merrimans fiscal position report it appears that the city’s reserves are already at the levels of the stabilization account. Normally fiscal emergencies are declared because of a situation a city is currently in, that is why it is an emergency. If what is in the report are the actual facts which I believe they are, the city has declared a emergency for what may happen in the future which is something that is not considered an emergency.

      I think what you are seeing here is a power play by certain council members.

      I would hate to be an employee of this city. If there is in fact a true emergency that is one thing but to declare an emergency that does not exist threatens employees positions, pay and benefits for no reason.

      The City Council now that the emergency has been declared has a duty to run the city under that designation and following that means no new hires, layoff’s and pay and benefit cuts.

      If this fiscal emergency is nothing more than political manuevering then the City Council should be ashamed of itself for putting it’s employees under this threat for no other reason than politics.

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