GENEVA — The city is expected to offer voluntary temporary furloughs in some departments as a way to trim costs, with a revenue gap that could rise to $4.4 million in a worst-case scenario, or be as small as $638,000.
While Council’s recently instituted Monday work sessions were designed for discussion only, two resolutions related to temporary furloughs are on the agenda for the June 1 video conference meeting, with the body’s regular monthly meeting just two days later.
Monday’s session starts at 5:30 and can be seen at the City of Geneva, NY YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3ezXX0o.
City Manager Sage Gerling and Assistant City Manager Adam Blowers have provided Council with an update on the city’s financial condition, noting that all revenue projections show a downward trend amid the business slowdown caused by the coronavirus quarantine.
“With each passing day, we learn more about the impact COVID-19 will have on our community as a whole and also our city finances,” Gerling and Blowers wrote to Council. “We are grateful to city staff for their continued efforts to reduce expenses and take on more responsibilities to assist our community during this time.
“The revenue loss will not be corrected by the end of the 2020 fiscal year. This is a multi-year issue. ...The goal right now is to stop the bleeding and focus on navigating our way through the remainder of 2020 with as little of a deficit as possible.”
The construction of the 2021 budget “will give us a chance to fully prepare for the year ahead, as well as continue the implemented directives already in place,” Gerling and Blowers said.
Among the big revenue items, sales tax collections dropped 24 percent in April, while state aid is expected to either be delayed or reduced.
“We will be able to make much clearer projections on sales tax in mid-July when our second quarter payment comes in,” they said. “At this time, state aid and sales tax are our two largest revenue concerns in the general fund.”
The hope is a federal spending bill that includes money to aid local governments suffering significant revenue losses.
“If that passes, it would mean significant relief for us and would provide extra aid in 2020 and 2021,” they said.
So far, savings are projected at about $235,000 through a hiring freeze and a freeze on non-essential spending, including training and conferences. The city also is encouraging early retirements as a way to reduce staffing, Gerling and Blowers said.
“We anticipate that more savings may be gleaned from a hold on non-essential spending,” they said. “At this time we are being conservative on the projected savings.”
There are revenue gaps of well over $1 million in the water and sewer funds as well.
If approved by Council, voluntary temporary layoffs would be offered to Department of Public Works foremen and laborers union employees, the municipal employee union, and non-represented (management) staff. The layoffs would run from June 8 through July 31, and employees would continue to have health insurance coverage if they are covered right now.
Police and firefighter unions are not included in the voluntary layoff offers.
The administration estimates 6-10 employees will agree to the temporary layoffs, which could save the city $60,000 to $85,000.
Neither Gerling nor Blowers responded to a request for comment on why some employees would potentially volunteer for the layoff or why police and firefighters are not among the unions involved in the temporary workforce reduction.
“Every small move toward reducing expenses helps at this time,” Gerling and Blowers said in their message to Council. “We have a long road ahead. We are confident that with perseverance and smart financial decision-making, we can keep Geneva moving forward on the great path we have been on.”