COLTON - Nearly 60 government employees received layoff notices and the city's three libraries were closed for the remainder of the fiscal year Thursday to help close a projected $5 million deficit.

Interim City Manager Bob Miller left the door open for employee unions to come back to the negotiating table and accept a 15 percent pay cut that was originally proposed when the deficit was revealed in late October.

The measures enacted Thursday would save nearly $4 million through the rest of the fiscal year, city officials said.

But if the unions don't cooperate, additional layoffs could be needed, Miller said.

"We are hoping that the city's labor group representatives will return to their represented employees and take a long, hard look at whether they can offer the city some salary or benefit savings," he said. "Perhaps we can all work together to head off additional layoffs, or even reverse some of this action and return some fine people to their jobs."

Miller has asked unions to submit any final concession proposals by Tuesday. Thirty of the notices went to full-time employees and about the same number went to part-time employees, Miller said.

Tom Ramsey, the general unit representative for the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, said members offered 10 percent in concessions in an Oct. 29 proposal that suggested reducing work days from 10 hours to nine.

He said the union received no response until the layoff notices were issued Thursday. Ramsey said he's aware of seven general unit employees that were laid-off, but doesn't know the total number.

Ramsey also expressed anger that, as of Thursday, the Colton Police Officers Association had not been impacted by concessions or layoffs. That, he said, has forced other city employees to endure deeper cuts.

Ramsey suggested that Miller, the city's police chief who was appointed Interim City Manager in May, has shielded officers from cuts. Miller is set to return to the police chief role exclusively when newly appointed City Manager Rob Foster begins work Dec. 7.

"No salary cuts, no layoffs - it just makes no sense to me," Ramsey said. "What makes sense to me is the chief of police was in the perfect place to make sure that his department didn't get touched."

Sgt. Robbie Bornsheuer, the police union president, said members would meet Thursday night to discuss possible concessions, but declined to respond directly to Ramsey's statement.

Miller insisted that all city employees are being asked to take the same 15 percentpay cut and Ramsey's comments baseless.

"I think there's no merit at all in (Ramsey's) comment," Miller said. "I understand the distinction of what my roles are."

"Now is not the time to start pointing fingers," Chastain said. "This is a sad day. My heart is broken to have to displace hardworking employees."

Miller said the layoffs are "across the organization" from upper management on down. Assistant City Manager Mark Nuaimi, who is also Mayor of Fontana, is among those who lost their jobs Thursday.

Nuaimi was instrumental in developing the city's layoff strategy and recommended elimination of his own position, Miller said.

"That shows integrity," Miller said. "That's leadership by example."

Nuaimi said his contract includes a fair severance package that will sustain his family for the time being.

"I gave my professional opinion," Nuaimi said. "(Going forward) I'm going to trust in God as I have always done in my life."

Miller couldn't reveal Thursday how the layoffs break down by department. That news will likely come Tuesday after unions have presented final proposals, he said.

"This is a very tough day for the city," Miller said," and it's personally one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my professional career."

michael.sorba@inlandnewspapers.com, (909) 386-3872