OCEANSIDE — In an effort to save costs for the city during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, councilmembers have decided to cut their aides’ hours rather than their entire positions.
At its June 3 meeting, Council in a 3-2 vote reduced council aides weekly hours from 40 to 33 hours. Mayor Peter Weiss and Deputy Mayor Jack Feller were the two opposed.
The decision came a month after Council discussed consolidating its council aides into one position to save money and immediately after approving the city’s final budget at the same meeting.
Councilmember Chris Rodriguez was the one who suggested the consolidation plan at the April 27 budget workshop, arguing that it could save the city “close to half a million dollars.” On June 3, Rodriguez reversed his earlier opinion and sided with Councilmember Esther Sanchez, originally the only councilmember completely opposed to getting rid of council aides.
Rodriguez changed his mind after finding out that the city has $6.5 million in position vacancies set aside.
City Manager Deanna Lorson explained that the city has budgeted for $4.5 million in vacancies in the recently approved budget, and has another $2 million in vacant positions.
Rodriguez suggested allowing council members to choose whether or not to have a council aide in the future, or consolidating council aides to one position, but emphasized his desire for the mayor to have their own aide.
“I would really want that for the mayor,” he said.
There are currently four council aides employed by the city. Weiss has opted out of having a council aide.
Sanchez suggested dropping the hours to 33 per week for aides, an amount that would allow them to keep their health insurance benefits.
“It’s a hard time for anybody to be looking for a job,” she said.
Councilmember Ryan Keim said he’s happy to keep the aides on at 33 hours for now, but would like to consider consolidating them in the future if the city’s financial situation worsens and needs to layoff staff.
Feller, who wanted to consolidate the council aide positions into a single “program specialist” position, was disappointed with the outcome. He said he would be for the reduction in hours if aides spent all that time in the office, but that isn’t happening according to the deputy mayor.
“If your aide is actually in the office and working that’s a different story, but that hasn’t happened and it’s been severe at times,” Feller said, calling it a “continued abuse.”