• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no echo chambers. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! You can also register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account.

Pink Slip Anyone?

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
Like many local goverments in the country my city has had its share of recent budget problems. For months the city has tried to get the state to approve a new tax structure to take care of the problem, but for several reasons that has failed to happen and now we are having layoffs. 731 city workers total, 10 from the planning department. Needless to say the mood around here today is a bit dark.

Here's one of the local papers take on what's happening.
http://www.post-gazette.com/neigh_city/20030807layoffsc1.asp

Fun, fun, fun.....
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,244
Points
23
Sorry to hear the bad news. My previous place of employment had the habit of firing several planners during my last year. I got out as soon as I could.
 

Tom R

Cyburbian
Messages
2,274
Points
25
pink

Been in your position a couple of times. Not fun. The only good thing is that it is easier now to get info on new jobs on the net. But it also raises the competition. Hane you put down any roots yet?
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,481
Points
44
I am sorry to hear that. At one point in Reading's History, the Planning staff had about 15, now we have 3 planners, one zoning adm., and a historic preservation person.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
The problem is that no one knows who is going to get cut. My job is safe for right now because of a no lay-off clause in the union contract. I start to worry, however, if the city declares distressed status, which is the next step if the state doesn't do anything in the next month or so. Then all bets are off for ALL employees.

I for one am worried though because I have had to work in some REALLY BAD places to get here and this is my fourth move and third job in three years. I really like living here, and I'm getting married next June, so just picking up and going to the next place is not really an option I'd like to explore.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,481
Points
44
biscuit said:

I for one am worried though because I have had to work in some REALLY BAD places to get here and this is my fourth move and third job in three years.
Are there allot of planners work in bad places for a short time?

I feel for you, I have been in a relationship with a great girl who lives in York, and WHEN I get a job in Michigan, WI, or IL, she and I are going to have to make some hard choices.

The City of Reading is feeling some of the crunch, but almost our entire city is low/ mod income, so we get allot of federal funding such as CDBG. That is where much of my pay check comes from.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Cities (of all sizes) are by and large much better managed than state government. Unfortunately, state legislatures seem to have ignored cities for the past decade or so, and now that state budgets are in trouble because of bad decisions by legislators, they want to put the problems on the back of cities.

Wisconsin's situation is similar. Cities have only two main sources of revenue, shared revenue from the state and property taxes. All through the good years, the legislature only increased shared revenue by one percent. In real terms, with inflation, that source of revenue declined. At the same time, to look like heroes cutting taxes on businesses, they exempted most personal property such as machinery, computers, and telecommunications, then they changed the way agricultural land is assessed. This eroded the tax base. Cities responded by cutting, getting more efficient, and raising property taxes. (Though it should be noted that while city spending increased by 50%, state spending increased by 150%.)

To solve the budget crisis that it created, the state is planning a cut to shared revenues. In our case, it is about 7-8% of our budget. Then, because they are "tough on taxes" they decided to put a freeze on local taxes. Of course, they would not want to do the same to themselves. Since we need a 3-5% increase every year just to maintain our current level of service, we are going into this next budget with a hole of ten percent or more.

Sorry to go on about this, but I am one of the people who helps to put together the budget. I have to consider cutting things I have invested a good deal of time, effort, and emotion into. I also have to consider staffing issues, and the potential for my staff to be cut or transferred elsewhere. It is difficult.
 

Queen B

Cyburbian
Messages
3,179
Points
25
For those of you that have realtionships and are looking at changes, there is no part of it that is easy but, love each other alot , pick up and go where the job is and you will be ok. Just, remember, that love each other part..........
If you don't love each other enough to get through that then something else is going to come along that will break you up anyway!
Good Luck Biscuit
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,408
Points
32
Lots of city workers laid off in Iowa this year too. The state passed on much of their trouble to us.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
Michael hit our situation right on the head. By cutting shared revenue and imposing a tax freeze, they have put cities in a tough situation. Not only can cities not afford to remain at the same level of service, they have to cut things because the loss of shared revenue leaves everyone with a significant built-in deficit.

The problem with the tax freeze is that it is simply a political move by the republicans in state government to embarass the governor. The Guv promised to not raise taxes and his state budget reflects that, however he decided that local governments should have the right to decide how they deal with this shortfall that the state left them.

They also failed to address issues regarding how the freeze would affect paying off TIF districts, budgeting for unfunded state mandates, and additional cuts like now requiring cities to asses manufacturing properties themselves (the state has been doing it).
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,890
Points
26
i feel for ya man!

Me.. Peoria, IL ....i got layed off last fall.. took me 4 months of solid job searching to find a job.

I had been through 2 jobs in 2 years (now my 3rd job in 3 years) so the experience and length things appeared tougher to overcome.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
RANT RANT RANT Buscuit is not alone.

Michael Stumpf said:
To solve the budget crisis that it created, the state is planning a cut to shared revenues. In our case, it is about 7-8% of our budget. Then, because they are "tough on taxes" they decided to put a freeze on local taxes. Of course, they would not want to do the same to themselves.
Its worse than most people think, Mike.

The legislature slapped together the levy freeze law without any review by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau or the Dept of Revenue. It is a TOTAL 3 year levy freeze. There is no thought as to TIF's impact, nor is there any thought about municiaplities having existing debt balloons that were previsouly committed to.

1) Communities with successful TIDs get penalized. For every dollar of increment generated in a TID, they must reduce operating levy by $1. Small communities like Randolf and Johnson Creek, with large and wildly successful TIF Districts facing losing most - or all - of their ENTIRE operating levy.

Close the doors.

Dont plow the streets.

Let the buildings burn.

I'm not being fececious with this. That is the true impact.

2) The budget bill allows a local levy increase for "debt authorized before 7-1-03. It does NOT allow a levy increase to refinance existing debt. Recently many communities hedged bets on falling interest rates, and bonded short term with balloon payments. Many have balloons coming due in the three year freeze period. One such community has an annual levy less than $5 million dollars. The ballon - which would have otherwise been refinanced - cannot, as a re-fi is technically "new"debt and therefore prohibited by law. Their only option will be to increase the tax levy that year (as authorized to pay exisitng debt) for one year to more than $12 million. Its something like a 10x increase in taxes for one year.

How responsible is it for the legislature to force that upon a community!? No, I take that back. How responsible is it for the legislature to force that upon residents? Its appalling.

Behind closed doors, the legislators agree its a bad law. IN public they get on a soap box for it becasue it has broad public support from Joe Citizen. Here's the kicker ---

And Joe Citizen is behind this so-called "TAX FREEZE" becasue they all think it means their tax bill will not change for three years. Wake up Joe! You're screwed
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
This is depressing to see,

I be routing for you Biscuit!
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Re: RANT RANT RANT Buscuit is not alone.

Chet said:
Its worse than most people think, Mike.

The legislature slapped together the levy freeze law without any review by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau or the Dept of Revenue. It is a TOTAL 3 year levy freeze. There is no thought as to TIF's impact, nor is there any thought about municiaplities having existing debt balloons that were previsouly committed to.

1) Communities with successful TIDs get penalized. For every dollar of increment generated in a TID, they must reduce operating levy by $1. Small communities like Randolf and Johnson Creek, with large and wildly successful TIF Districts facing losing most - or all - of their ENTIRE operating levy.

Close the doors.

Dont plow the streets.

Let the buildings burn.

I'm not being fececious with this. That is the true impact.

2) The budget bill allows a local levy increase for "debt authorized before 7-1-03. It does NOT allow a levy increase to refinance existing debt. Recently many communities hedged bets on falling interest rates, and bonded short term with balloon payments. Many have balloons coming due in the three year freeze period. One such community has an annual levy less than $5 million dollars. The ballon - which would have otherwise been refinanced - cannot, as a re-fi is technically "new"debt and therefore prohibited by law. Their only option will be to increase the tax levy that year (as authorized to pay exisitng debt) for one year to more than $12 million. Its something like a 10x increase in taxes for one year.

How responsible is it for the legislature to force that upon a community!? No, I take that back. How responsible is it for the legislature to force that upon residents? Its appalling.

Behind closed doors, the legislators agree its a bad law. IN public they get on a soap box for it becasue it has broad public support from Joe Citizen. Here's the kicker ---

And Joe Citizen is behind this so-called "TAX FREEZE" becasue they all think it means their tax bill will not change for three years. Wake up Joe! You're screwed
Yikes! The TIF issue is one I had been familiar with. It is hard not to pay attention when a bit over 17% of our assessed value is in TIF districts. The bonding issue is one I had not heard. It is time to strike back at the two-faced incompetents we call legislators. Wisconsin needs a ballot referendum to provide "property tax relief" by guaranteeing a minimum percentage of the state budget be returned to local municipalities in the form of unrestricted revenue sharing. Next, we freeze state tax revenues at current levels, requiring the state to reduce the income tax rate to bring collections in line. Finally, we prohibit the legislature from carrying over payment for expenditures into the next budget cycle, forcing them to "pay as you go." Oh, I bet they would like to see THAT referendum on a statewide ballot... NOT.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Woo! As bad as it is, municipalities in California did not get hit by the worst case scenario this year. Next year-we'll see. It was still bad, for both cities, State employees (16,000 positions cut), and school districts.

My employer (Fairfield) is better managed and luckier than most. We were not so technology-dependent, and we had a big reserves fund. Our sales tax revenues have actually not fallen yet.

It helps that our department brings a lot of revenue into the City. In our two year budget cycle, we were supposed to lose 1 FTE in the second year (2004-2005). One of the managers "retired," so that will help our department budget. There are cities in the South Bay (Silicon Valley) that have seen substantial personnel cuts.

Personally, as a long range planner, I recognize I am much less "vital" to the city than the current planners that process the permits. We will "luckily" (one of my better work friends) be losing another staff member (moving because of personal reasons) as soon as he finds a job closer to the coast.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,904
Points
25
Thanks for all the support guys.

It's bad to find out that this is a problem in so many other places as well. My sister and her husband flew up to visit for the weekend so I wasn't in the office friday and haven't heard the latest...I have a feeling that it's going to get uglier befor all is said and done.

I'll keep you updated.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,524
Points
23
Biscuit - I hope things work out for you.

I often see references, in Cyburbia, to the bad situation with the planner-job market in the US. Conversely, in Australia, there is an absolute dearth of competent planners. We are constantly recruiting to replace planners who are living it up in a seller's market or who are directly poached by consultants. With the relative value of the Aussie dollar, maybe some of you guys should consider a working holiday.

JNL can comment, but I also often see advertisements for jobs in New Zealand (in Australian media) as well, so they may be experiencing a similar problem.

If you are interested - have a look here and here.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
Messages
4,853
Points
26
Here in Chile we have a huge deficit of planners and geographers... leave it to me :) you do not want to leave your lovely developed country to come here... ;)
 

JNL

Cyburbian
Messages
2,449
Points
25
I think the job market for planners is pretty good here. Myself, I work as a researcher for a privatised consulting firm.

It's pink slip day at my work today :( so I have some empathy.
It's a little bit out of the blue although we've known our financial performance has not been good for a while. So far, no pink slip for me.
 

LouisvilleSlugger

Cyburbian
Messages
216
Points
9
JNL said:
[BIt's pink slip day at my work today :( so I have some empathy.
It's a little bit out of the blue although we've known our financial performance has not been good for a while. So far, no pink slip for me. [/B]
YAY!!!!!
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,524
Points
23
JNL said:
It's pink slip day at my work today :( so I have some empathy.
It's a little bit out of the blue although we've known our financial performance has not been good for a while. So far, no pink slip for me.
Keep your head down, scowl a lot and look busy. Good luck.
 

JNL

Cyburbian
Messages
2,449
Points
25
Rem said:
Good luck.
Thank you. Looks like I'm okay. 6 people were made redundant yesterday, out of a total staff of 42. Everyone is a bit shocked.
 

dmvallie

Cyburbian
Messages
22
Points
2
I graduated in May, started sending out apps the week before I graduated. So far I've had 2 interviews but budget constraints are hurting everyone. 1 group is still trying to fund a position for me but I'm starting to get discouraged,

and WHY are the spaces on job apps so tiny? if you did more than 2 things on your last job you can't fit it in unless you write in midget letters
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
dmvallie said:
and WHY are the spaces on job apps so tiny? if you did more than 2 things on your last job you can't fit it in unless you write in midget letters
I agree. The spaces are too small, and although many of the forms are offered as .pdf files, they are not formatted as forms, so you still have to download or print them and type in the information.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
and WHY are the spaces on job apps so tiny?
It is to test how legible your handwriting is.

My main question is why do they need you to fill out the forms when they ask for a cover letter and resume. If you don't have a good idea what info they are going to need and provide it then you probably are not the brightest bunny in the bus to begin with.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
donk said:
My main question is why do they need you to fill out the forms when they ask for a cover letter and resume.
Uniformity and protection against frivolous "you didnt hire me because...." law suits.

People put what they want on resumes, relevant or not. By having a uniform data set you avoid alot of bias suits.
 

Richmond Jake

You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!
Messages
18,289
Points
44
donk said:
You mean I can sue all of the people that have not hired me?
Damn right you can. After all, it's not your fault that you didn't meet the minimum qualifications. They set the bar too high.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
donk said:
You mean I can sue all of the people that have not hired me?
Only if you're a minority, a woman, or gay (sorry gays). Last I saw your picture in the gallery, you didnt appear to be 2 of the 3, and the third is not evident from your posts. :)
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,846
Points
59
Rem said:
Conversely, in Australia, there is an absolute dearth of competent planners. We are constantly recruiting to replace planners who are living it up in a seller's market or who are directly poached by consultants. With the relative value of the Aussie dollar, maybe some of you guys should consider a working holiday.
How hard is it for a US planner to get a job in Australia? Seriously.
 

Belle

Cyburbian
Messages
142
Points
6
donk said:
My main question is why do they need you to fill out the forms when they ask for a cover letter and resume. If you don't have a good idea what info they are going to need and provide it then you probably are not the brightest bunny in the bus to begin with.
I've always wondered if maybe a small reason for the application is as the first step in the screening process. Anyone can change the objective line and print out another resume, change a couple of lines and print out another cover letter. THese days, a lot of applicants don't even have to do that and instead email everything. THe application often takes a little more effort on the applicant's part in addition to postage. You have to be at least a little bit serious to go through the process.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
The reason to fill out the forms is because they ask you to. Sometimes there is a pertinent question. So many times they are stupid, but playing the game is the game.

I like the ones that want a complete work history with names, numbers and addresses. For my first job, the department was disbanded and the immediate supervisors are dead. For my second, the phone and address has changed 3 times, and I do not know, nor care, what it is now.

As for the available space for responses, insert a one-liner with "see attached resume".

As an employer, I like hand written applications--just to see if I can read the writing (penmenship is a pet peeve).

OT: I now list items that identify my religion. Usually a no-no, but I have been head of the church council and a major officer in the men's club. My currnet thinking is the community involvement and leadership roles out weigh the religious aspects (and if I don't get a position due to religion, I probably wouldn't want to work there anyway).
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
mike gurnee said:
I like the ones that want a complete work history with names, numbers and addresses. For my first job, the department was disbanded and the immediate supervisors are dead. For my second, the phone and address has changed 3 times, and I do not know, nor care, what it is now.
I hear you. I've been here seven years. The last organization I worked for was disbanded two years after I left. Going further back, should I remember the number of the organization I worked at in 1992? Mostly, I leave those items blank. It is not as if employers call them up to check references. I can't recall a single instance of anyone even asking for more than a list of references, who were never called (and I was offered three jobs, which I declined). Although I have been a reference for other people, only once was I called, and I suspect that was because the employer knew me and wanted my thoughts on a former intern.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,846
Points
59
My peeves with the job application process:


1) As Cardinal said, many applications have spaces that are far too small for the necessary information. PDF applications haven't been converted into interactive forms, so you can't type in the appropriate information; you have to print it out and fill out the form by hand.


2) Some application questions are very invasive. First, there's the need for a Social Security number on some applications. I'm very reluctant to give out my SSN, because it's not a national identification number, and there is a very real threat that my identity could be stolen. There's also this from one form I saw:

Have you ever been warned/disciplined for any of the following occurrences in your previous or current employment?
Attendance o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Performance problems o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Inability to get along with others o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Safety violations o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Harassment o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Violent behavior o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Inappropriate use or possession of alcohol o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Inappropriate use or possession of a drug o Yes o No If yes, please explain:
Have you ever been suspended from any position? o Yes o No If yes, please explain (including date, location, employer
and situation):
Please explain any gaps in employment.


"Yeah, dude ... the Man caught me partaking of the chronic at a Planning Commission meeting. Bummer. I have, like, glaucoma and stuff, so I need my weed!" Right.

There's also this one:

"Have you ever been convicted of any charges, other than minor traffic citations? Note: This question seeks information on any conviction from any point in your life (this includes conviction as a minor) even if the conviction was removed from your record."

How can an employer find out about an arrest if the record is sealed? Why would they care about that mailbox you blew up when you were 15?


3) My biggest peeve ... SUPPLEMENTAL QUESTIONNAIRES. Arizona municipalities love 'em, for some reason. It's not enough that you have years of experience under your belt, and that you've passed the AICP. No, you have to answer eight or ten questions, like:

What is the purpose of a city's comprehensive plan?
Describe the purpose of a variance.
What are some of the criteria considered in a rezoning?


Great. Not only do I have to fill out an application, but I also have to spend a few hours to re-take the Land Use 101 final exam from grad school. Tens of other people are doing the same thing, too, so those hours will probably be for naught; there will inevitably be applicants with more experience than me, or a degree from a more prestigous university, who will be called for interviews. I'm going to have to do it, because there's a couple of nice jobs that have these stupid supplemental questionnaires, but why? What's the point? Testing knowledge ... well, there's the "AICP" after my name. Writing skills? How about some samples of my previous work. Weeding out the uninterested and cutting down on the number of potential applicants? That's my guess.


mike gurnee said:
As for the available space for responses, insert a one-liner with "see attached resume".
Can't do it on most. Why? "Resumes will not be accepted in lieu of a complete application. Please do not write 'see resume.' Incomplete forms or completed forms that refer to a resume will not be accepted."
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
OK Dan, you have more recent application experience than me. On your first list of questions, I would have to answer yes to at least half of them--and thus not be considered. Perhaps those employers have been burned big time in the recent past.

Have you all noticed how one isolated incidence creates a knee-jerk reaction? Might be a bad new employee. Might be one person abusing a cell phone. Perhaps this should be a new thread.
 

Rem

Cyburbian
Messages
1,524
Points
23
US Citizens Working in Australia

Dan said:
How hard is it for a US planner to get a job in Australia? Seriously.
I've had a look at some websites maintained by the Department of Immigration and this is a good starting point.
There are links to specific working arrangements - there seems to be a lot of categories that provide for employment but when you look into them they are each highly qualified. In summary I can tell you:
  • Australia doesn't have a reciprocal working holiday agreement with the US but we do with Canada. Maximum of twelve months work overall and three months with any employer. Age limited to between 18 and 30 years.
    A migration system exists where skilled migrants are given preferential treatment. Urban and Regional Planners are on the list - refer ASCO Code 252311.
    New Zealanders can work without restriction.
    There is a work exchange program that says "The 411 visa allows for the temporary stay of skilled people wanting to come to Australia to broaden their work experience and skills under reciprocal arrangements which allow Australian residents similar opportunities overseas. It includes people seeking entry under certain bilateral exchange agreements." I can't find if a bilateral agreement exists with the US.
    Employers can sponsor temporary workers if they can demonstrate that the local skillsbase is not available.
I guess I would say it looks possible but not easy. I asked our HR staff what we do with OS applicants and they advise provided they have a current visa that permits them to work, there is no barrier. I guess that is the rub, considering how complex the visa arrangements seem to be. The bigger problem is that it would be difficult to convince an employer to give you a job without you being in the country already (and having the benefit of a face to face interview). One up-side is that the application forms some posters have complained about above are not generally used in Australia.

It would appear easier if US companies won consulting work and imported staff or used the sponsoring arrangements (up to 4 years).

While I would be embarrassed if anyone on Cyburbia took the risk of trying to find employment in Australia and was unsuccessful - especially if it cost them personal time and funds or there is a problem I have overlooked, I can assure you there is a definite shortage of people with 7-10 years experience. If it is something that appeals to you, I suggest you pursue opportunities in Australia. I would be happy to give advice about employers and locations if you find something you are interested in.
 
Top