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Cal City Crisis: 19 employees to be laid off due to budget constraints

Cal City set to lay off 19 employees and says it will save $1.3 million; special meeting scheduled for Wednesday night regarding cutbacks
Posted at 7:01 PM, Jul 10, 2024

CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KERO) — California City says it will lay off 19 employees to save $1.3 million dollars; schedules special meeting for Wednesday night.

  • UPDATE: As of just after 9 p.m., the city council voted to carry out the layoffs of 19 employees. The motion carried, 4-1, with council member Jim Creighton opposing.
  • Information about California City's special meeting at 8 p.m. can be found on its website.
  • Layoff notices were sent out Wednesday and the employees are scheduled to work their last day on July 31, says Harvey Brown, the union president and a city employee.
  • A special election is scheduled for July 30 for a special tax that will help fund Cal City's police and fire departments.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

There are more drastic cuts in the town of California City... as 19 employees are slated to be laid off.

I'm Steve Virgen, your California City neighborhood reporter.

A special meeting is being held on Wednesday night to announce the cutbacks.

The move is expected to save 1.3 million dollars... but it appears to be causing confusion, disdain, and low morale in the desert town.

One of the jobs being eliminated is a crime analyst working on the cold case that I told you about on Tuesday.

"Just the general safety of the citizens they need the nine cops out there. And they're at the bare minimum right now. In my opinion, it's dangerous."

Larry Brandenburg tells me, that California City Police will still be struggling without him, specifically the seven cold cases that will go on the shelf because for the past five years, he's been the only crime analyst working those cases.

Now, he's among 19 City employees being laid off, according to agenda information for a special meeting.

He came to California City after retiring from the Los Angeles County Sheriffs. He says he's disappointed about the layoffs.

Cal City Mayor Kelly Kulikoff responded in a statement: "Understandably, the cutbacks have caused upset among staff. However, we must prioritize balancing our budget and enhancing government efficiency."

Union president and city employee Harvey Brown tells me the layoff notices were mailed out Wednesday.

The employees' final day is set for July 31st, he says.

A special election is scheduled for July 30th for a special tax that will help fund the police and fire departments.

"They need people to mentor the guys that they have and to be able to retain the people they have. Without that, it's kind of frightening what might happen," Brandenburg says.

Kulikoff says they can't replace Brandenburg because of budget constraints.

Kulikoff said: "The elimination of 19 positions may only be the beginning. … By the end of this month, we may need to consider cutting at least 12 additional positions, and potentially up to 32 if Measure B does not pass on July 30th."

Cal City police chief Jesse Hightower was fired in April.

Things haven't been the same for the department, Brandenburg says.

"The morale has been in the toilet. It demoralized the officers here and its employees and support people because they all respected Chief Hightower," Brandenburg says.

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Kelly Kulikoff’s statement in its entirety:

“We are currently in the midst of a cost-cutting phase in California City, aimed at process improvement and budget priority setting. The elimination of 19 positions may only be the beginning. This move is expected to yield over $1.3 million in cost savings. By the end of this month, we may need to consider cutting at least 12 additional positions, and potentially up to 32 if Measure B does not pass on July 30th. Understandably, the cutbacks have caused upset among staff. However, we must prioritize balancing our budget and enhancing government efficiency. Our ultimate goal is to become a fully functional and efficiently run city, operating with a team of 69 highly qualified and productive employees.”


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