In an effort to trim the city budget, Akron City Council Monday night voted to eliminate the "City Picnic Day" that has been observed on the third Wednesday of June for at least the last 50 years.
Council's Budget and Finance Committee Chair Tina Merlitti said eliminating the tradition was not only fiscally prudent, but a logical move since the city holiday's meaning and participation has been changed from its original intentions.
"Picnic Day has lost attendance over the years," Merlitti (W-7) said. "The idea was to bring city workers together in camaraderie, but there is no organized event where they all get together."
Now, she said, the day has become another day off for employees. Those who cannot or choose not to take the day off are paid time-and-a-half to the tune of $125,000 a year.
Employees will now be offered an additional personal day to their benefits. The city will save $60,000 a year in overtime payments to most city employees who typically would have worked on City Picnic Day. Most of the city's bargaining unit members, except police and fire, have agreed to take an additional personal day in lieu of overtime.
"It costs $125,000 a year in overtime for people that can't get that Wednesday off - namely trash, police and fire personnel," Merlitti said. "Police and Fire refused to take the personal day, so we still have to pay $65,000 in overtime to those departments. "I appreciate the other unions working with us."
Merlitti said City Picnic Day was celebrated at the former Geauga Lake amusement park years ago. When the park changed ownership and eventually closed, no other organized event replaced it, but the day continued to be recognized as an official city holiday. Merlitti said Cedar Point amusement park has agreed to extend a discount to city employees who would like to attend on their own time with their families this summer.