Friday, May 15, 2020

A Strategic Plan to Preserve Services and Jobs

No matter when it happens, I feel bad for anyone who is laid off or loses a job they love for any reason.  This is a particularly scary time to deal with such things.

I think it is nearly impossible for the City to produce a stable and sustainable budget for FY 2021 without at least some reduction in staff at least in terms of furloughs.  I do not envy the Mayor having to make those choices.  I have been there in the past and it is very very difficult.

To date, I have no idea what the layoff or furlough plan is.  It has not been discussed with me or any city councilor that I am aware of.  I hope it is a strategic plan, that aims to protect our employees and town operations as much as possible.  I hope both the municipal and school administrations make significant attempts to manage the personnel situation quickly and strategically with the clear goal of long-term stability fofr the organization.

I believe several points should be considered as to personnel management decisions that could help our fiscal stability immensely.

  1. We are at the point where it makes good sense to leverage the federal and state funding where it is available to stabilize our municipal government.  Many of our employees, through no fault of their own, cannot do their regular job right now.  If we furloughed these people, anyone who was making up to almost $70,000 a year would either make more money or the same money on unemployment due to the CARES act.  The City has a long list of people in this position and could save substantial money.  Money that could be used to preserve these jobs long term.  If we strategically did this we could save an awful lot of money that we could use to keep these people employed long term and not harm them financially in the interim.  I would advocate the City continue to pay the benefits of furloughed employees during the interim period, further stabilizing their experience.
  2. The City should not lay off or impact people in any manner that provide direct core services to constituents.  Police, fire, educators, trash collector, highway workers and more are the reason people pay their taxes.  We should use strategic furloughs to fill the gap, and not targeted layoffs of particular people.
  3. One area that we can gain efficiency is looking at our middle management structure.  This is an area that has greatly expanded with job creations and upgrades in the last decade.  This is hard for managers to hear and I know that.   Restructuring of this area, which would have to be permanent in this narrow area, can save significant amounts of money, and not impact services.
  4. There has been a lot of discussion about pay raises and that is always a challenge because when you lay people off you are asking others to do more.  However, I also think it is symbolic to others who have lost their jobs.  I do believe consideration should be given to reductions in pay, temporarily at least, at least for people who make above $100,000

No question these are awful decisions to make and my heart goes out to anyone impacted.  However, if we do this right, we can minimize, even eliminate, the harmful impacts to people, and actually enhance the long-term employment prospects of most of our employees.  If we do not do it right, it will have a broad-based detrimental impact.  My fingers and toes are crossed we make the right choices.  I am a little mystified by the couple layoffs that have been reported so far, as they do not seem strategic, but I suspect in time we will have a better explanation.

If we do not deal with our significant budget issues now, one thing I know for sure, is next year will be a nightmare and our very core services will be threatened.   We can adopt a well thought out plan or we can flounder through this pandemic, the choice is most assuredly ours

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