Council approves employee ‘furloughs’
After some debate on the impact voluntary furloughs would have on city employees, the Cape Coral City Council voted 6-2 to use a progressive system to impose unpaid furloughs and reduce the impact to lower income employees.
The decision will affect non-union employees; union employees already have made similar concessions.
The city budget was built around a series of savings requiring the council to make reductions. Some $3 million worth of reductions have been introduced which eliminate some positions and transfer funds.
Councilmember Bill Deile sponsored an ordinance to require non-bargaining unit employees take unpaid furlough days, then modified the proposal to base the mandatory leave time on income earned. Although different amounts were discussed, the final vote included four days for those making more than $75,000 annually, two days for those making between $52,000 and $75,000 and no days for those making less than $50,000.
City spokesperson Connie Barron said employees should begin making their plans now, specifically because salary employees taking a furlough will be considered hourly for the week of their furlough, according to federal law.
The highest salary in the city is $142,000 and the lowest is $28,000. Most council members agreed that those with lower incomes are affected by a furlough more profoundly than employees making more than $100,000 per year.
“What we are dealing with is people’s lives,” said Councilmember Marty McClain.
One issue stemming from the furlough is the amount of salary lost by non-bargaining unit employees who haven’t received any raises in the last two years. Another was what affect furloughs would have on public services.
City Manager Carl Schwing said 168 employees would be affected by the decision to furlough. He added the savings from himself and other city directors taking furlough would amount to $24,000.
Council members also discussed whether imposing the furloughs would be discriminatory towards employees, yet Deile said if the city doesn’t deal with this issue now, many of these employees could lose their job if the economy forces more cuts in the future.
“It doesn’t get rid of people, it reduces the cost of keeping people,” he said. “We may be put into a position where we are forced to get rid of people.”
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz placed blame on the old city council, alleging they drafted a lower budget.
“I am somewhat dissatisfied with this council cleaning up another situation left by the former administration and city manager,” he said.