Most labor groups in Burlingame agreed to forgo scheduled salary increases while firefighters made concessions to keep open a fire station slated to be closed nearly all of this year to help the city get through tough financial times exacerbated by impending state takeaways.

"In these unprecedented economic times we understand that waiving an agreed upon salary increase without any guarantee as to what may happen in the future is not easy for employees as they worry about providing for their families in these uncertain times,” said Mayor Ann Keighran.

Last month, the Burlingame City Council approved a $37.79 million general fund budget for this fiscal year, a 7.6 percent drop from this year’s $40.88 million budget. The budget included the closure of Station 36 on Rollins Road in Burlingame for about 300 days. Salary freezes were discussed but not yet approved. On Monday, Human Resources Director Deirdre Dolan announced that all non-police department union groups agreed to waive previously approved salary increases. In addition, firefighters suggested and made concessions allowing the fire station to remain open through 2010.

The most significant savings for the fire department came from agreeing to a reduction in truck staffing from four to three, saving close to $500,000 over a year. Fire employees also agreed to waive sick leave incentive pay saving $100,000.

Even with the concessions, Burlingame is facing the possibility of a state property tax hit of about $1.2 million and a gas tax loss of $480,000, said City Manager Jim Nantell, though he will be recommending using reserves for the one-time takeaway.

Still, yesterday’s announcement saves the city $561,000 this year resulting in the avoidance of further reductions of employees and services in the library and parks and recreation departments. Employee units — including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 2190 and 829, Burlingame Association of Middle Managers, Confidential Employees and Department Heads, IAFF Local 2400 Fire Fighters and Fire Administrators — agreed to waive salary increases.

"The members of AFSCME 829 and 2190 recognize the tough economic situation Burlingame is in,” said AFSCME Business Agent Sharon McAleavey, who represents the two Burlingame groups.

Nantell added it was important to note the employees agreed to forgo the raises without asking for equal time off.

"We may have to look at furloughs in the future but at this time our employees agreed to no salary increases and they will continue to work full time,” he said.

Agreeing to the cut means people are not laid off and city services remain intact, McAleavey said. The employees hope Burlingame leaders focus efforts on raising revenue moving forward.

In addition to the freezes, firefighters approached leadership with additional concessions allowing Station 36 to remain open during the year.

Each department was asked to make a 10 percent cut in the current budget. For the fire department that meant cutting $1.2 million. Fire Chief Don Dornell explained closing a fire station most of the year was the only way to accomplish the cuts without layoffs and furloughs.

Union representatives came to Dornell asking what was needed to keep it open then made multiple suggestions to make it happen.

"I’m so proud of my firefighters for offering a solution,” said Dornell.

Nantell was ecstatic about the station remaining open.

Negotiations with police officers, sergeants and commanders are ongoing.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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