Flaggs lays out possible plans to cut city workforce
Early Tuesday, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. sent a letter to President Trump asking the federal government’s help in assisting municipalities with budget shortfalls brought about by the COVID-19 virus that could force employee layoffs.
Tuesday evening, he laid out a plan to cut workforce costs if those calls for help from federal and state officials don’t come through.
The three options Flaggs detailed included a 12 percent cut in the number of city employees, a 5 percent across-the-board pay cut or an option that would layoff employees with less than one-year, three-years or five years of service with the city.
In a letter to Trump Tuesday, Flaggs requested “municipalities be included in Federal emergency funding to cover budget shortfalls so that we do not have to furlough, lay off or terminate any public employees who provide services for the health, safety and welfare of our communities.”
The proposed 12 percent cut is slightly more than the projected cut amount Flaggs mentioned last week during an online question and answer session when he said a 10 percent cut in staff may be needed.
While the options were detailed, the timeline for such a decision was not. Flaggs said he was waiting to see if and when he is allowed to reopen sectors of the economy and detailed reports on the budget shortfalls.
The reason Flaggs and city leaders are examining cuts to the city’s payroll comes from an expected decline in sales tax revenues as a result of the economic slowdown and business restrictions brought about by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In his letter, Flaggs said the expected reimbursement from state and federal agencies for some city services is appreciated, but the shortfall in revenues is an area of deep concern for him and other local leaders whose budgets depend on sales tax revenues.
“We appreciate the funding of unanticipated expenses due to COVID-19 through various federal agencies; however, the loss of revenue necessary to sustain employees which enable cities to provide services for health, safety and welfare to our citizens is just as devastating as unanticipated expenses,” Flaggs wrote. “We hope that the federal government will be able to assist cities with emergency funding of loss of revenue due to COVID-19.”
For Vicksburg, the economic slowdown and the loss of sales taxes is just one area of the city’s budget that is getting hit hard. The city’s budget also depends on money brought in by the four casinos, which accounts for 16 percent of the city’s operating budget.