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Flaggs to plan to cut workforce, reorganize city in two weeks

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said Friday he will present a reorganization plan for the city at the May 18 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The mayor at a May 5 press conference indicated he planned to implement a 20 percent across the board pay cut and lay off 12 percent of the city’s workforce unless the city gets relief from the Legislature.

He said he would make a decision on the cuts by June 15, adding he believes by then the Legislature will have indicated whether cities will provide financial aid to the cities. Flaggs said after the Friday meeting he still plans to wait until June 15 before determining if he will make any cuts in pay or employees.

The reorganization, he said, “Is where we try to put every employee where it’s going to be beneficial to the city and provide the best service at the least cost to the taxpayer first before we start laying off people.

“Then we’re going to start looking at positions, not necessarily people,” he said. “It’s going to affect people, but we’re going to look at their positions as to whether not we can run the city without those positions. People are retiring; we’re not going to replace them, and we’re repositioning some people.”

Flaggs said the cross-training program he began several years ago is beginning to show benefits. He said the program is 95 percent complete and believes because of the program’s progress, some city positions can be eliminated.

“I’ve said all along, we’ve run this city with a lot more people than we need,” he said.

Financially, Flaggs said, the board was forced in September to cut $1.4 million dollars from the fiscal 2020 budget because of a reduction in property tax revenue caused by changes at Entergy’s Baxter Wilson power plant.

The city also faces a projected $2.8 million shortfall in lost revenue because of business closures out of concern for the COVID-19 virus. Gaming revenue, which accounts for 16 percent of the city’s budget, has not been coming in since March 13, when the state Gaming Commission closed the casinos.

“We had to cut $1.4 million, and now we have to cut another $2.8 million in the same budget year,” Flaggs said.

“Anybody who knows budgeting, knows that the biggest cost to any business or organization or government is your salaries; that’s your personnel costs,” he said. “Then comes supplies and other things.”

He said he is looking at all costs, including city training and travel costs.

“When you cut, you have to cut in a way that’s fair,” he said. “If the state helps us, we’ll be OK. And I believe the state will help us.”

If the city has to let employees go, he said, he wants to be able to pay two weeks’ severance pay if he can, “Or give them two weeks’ notice.”

 

City leaders respond to increase in COVID-19 numbers locally and statewide

Also during Friday’s meeting, Flaggs said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Warren County has increased from 90 to 94 people, and 404 new cases have been confirmed as of Friday morning.

“I thought I would be able to come to you and tell you that in the last two days we’ve been stuck at 90 cases in Warren County,” he said.

He called the 404 confirmed new cases statewide the highest it has been, “And you’re going to tell me y’all (are) going to take a chance on working and opening this city back up? Or this state when we’re trying to protect you and your family?”

Flaggs said the state had 9,090 total new cases as of Friday with 409 deaths and 113 outbreaks in longterm care facilies, such as nursing homes.

“Nobody is trying to punish you; we’re trying to save lives and mitigate this spread by not going too fast,” he said. “If you’re living, you ought to thank God. If you haven’t had the virus, thank God, based on the conditions of some people I’ve seen.

“Let’s continue to do what we’ve got to do,” Flaggs said. “Let’s save lives; let’s protect our families and friends and loved ones until we can get through this. This too shall pass.”

Looking at the 404 new cases, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said, “It’s serious, very serious. We need to always be in the frame of mind that we are protecting ourselves at all times, and by protecting yourself, you’re automatically protecting all those around you, so we need to keep that in mind at all times.”

The virus, he said, is making its way through the community “and if you take it for granted, you might just be one of those casualties. Let’s be vigilant, let’s be careful.”

He said he has a son working at a medical facility, where a majority of the patients he treats have COVID-19.

“We’re going to stay on the same path that we’re on and trying to help people,” Mayfield told Flaggs. “There are some people out there who think we are being hard, but when it’s said and done, I pray that they will realize the steps we are taking are because of and not in spite of (the virus).

“If you can wake up every morning and not have the coronavirus, you are truly blessed,” he said. 

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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