Come March 1, layoffs at the Merced Irrigation District will cut the agency's work force from 185 full-time employees to 164 -- an 11 percent cut.
The layoffs, says the district's General Manager John Sweigard, are needed to balance MID's budget. Rising state fees and increased operating overhead costs have put a large financial burden on the district. Sweigard said the layoffs will save the district $1,361,497.
Aside from the financial benefits, the layoffs are an effort to "upgrade the talent level, increase night supervision and place the correct people with system knowledge in the right place" said Sweigard. He did not say what positions will be cut. That decision will be made before March 1.
MID's board approved the "district roster and classification" resolution which green-lighted the layoffs at its Feb. 2 meeting.
The layoffs come despite the board's ability to increase revenue by raising water rates up to $5 an acre-foot, which is something they have not done.
Growers pay $18.25 an acre-foot. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons or a year's supply for an average family in the Valley.
While the district moves to lay off employees, management received cost of living pay raises in early 2009.
More recently, Sweigard, who's recruitment cost the district $56,000, was hired with a starting salary $30,000 higher than the district's former manager, Dan Pope. In addition, Hicham Eltal, the district's deputy general manager, received an increase in salary of roughly $15,000 when he was recently promoted to the position.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 384-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.