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City sending 116 layoff notices

The city of Spokane sent out layoff notices to 116 employees Friday as it struggles to close a $12 million shortfall in its 2011 budget.

Among those receiving notices are 65 police department employees, 13 in the fire department and 23 in the street department.

Only about 70 of those who receive notices, however, will be laid off as the city reduces its work force by 120 positions, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said.

The rest of the employees receiving notices Friday will be demoted but remain on the city payroll.

That’s because 50 positions are currently vacant, largely as a result of a hiring freeze announced by Mayor Mary Verner earlier this year.

The police department will lose about 47 positions and the fire department 28 overall, Feist said.

“The mayor is still hopeful she will get givebacks from bargaining units to avoid layoffs,” Feist said.

Last month, Verner asked the unions to give up their 2010 pay raises and to cover a larger share of health insurance.

Talks continue between the city and bargaining units, including the Police Guild, which last week warned the mayor in a letter that it would challenge any layoffs among its ranks by filing a grievance with the Public Employment Relations Commission.

Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said Friday there was reason for optimism, because negotiations between the city and the guild continue.

“I’m encouraged we are continuing to talk,” Kirkpatrick said.

She said cuts would result for the most part in reductions in service, including trimming the popular Neighborhood Resource Officer program from six to four officers and cutting two K-9 officers. There also may be some program eliminations, such as the fraud investigation unit.

“It’s always unacceptable to reduce public safety, but we will work with what we’ve been given,” Kirkpatrick said.

There may be additional reductions in the Spokane Public Library and Spokane Parks and Recreation departments, which have not completed their budgets yet. About 800 workers in the city’s utility departments will be unaffected by the cuts.

The list of layoff notices sent Friday is:

65 in the Spokane Police Department, including uniformed and four civilian employees

23 in the street department

13 in the Spokane Fire Department

5 in the building services department

2 in the public defender’s office

2 in the city clerk’s office

2 in code enforcement

1 in planning services

1 in the legal department

1 in the mayor’s office