Park City, for now, opts for budget maneuvers over layoffs
The Park City manager on Thursday evening spoke about the value of staffers and said officials intend to make a series of budget maneuvers prior to considering letting people go from the municipal ranks.
City Manager Matt Dias made the comments during a Park City Council meeting as the elected officials continue their discussions about the budget. The City Council is considering options to close a gap in the current fiscal year and a projected gap in the next one. The budget talks this year are the most difficult since the depths of the recession as Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council attempt to craft a spending plan amid the economic havoc caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Dias at the meeting on Thursday said municipal staffers put in lots of hours in a difficult time.
“The last thing that we would ever want to do is signal to them, or show them somehow, that we didn’t value their contributions, or didn’t value their service. In fact, the opposite is true,” Dias said.
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He added that there are moves that can be made in the budget before the elected officials are asked to consider personnel reductions of some sort.
“That’s the reason we are doing rigorous operational constraints, tapping into emergency reserves and tapping into capital funds before we’re targeting workforce-type service reductions, reductions in force, layoffs,” he said.
He also noted the spring shoulder season timing of the gap in the budget. The time of year has been seen as fortuitous for City Hall and the wider community since the shutdown of many businesses occurred toward the end of the ski season and as Park City entered the spring shoulder season, a period when business drops off significantly in any year.
Dias said officials “took advantage of the seasonality of this event.” He said the municipal workforce had dropped by approximately 100 as compared to the staffing levels in December.
“So we had that working in our favor,” he said.
Dias repeated the idea that the elected officials could approve a provisional budget, an unorthodox process that would have them return to the financial talks later in the fiscal year. More would be understood about the economic impacts at that time, the thinking holds.
“We may be returning to you, unfortunately, with a really difficult situation where we’re cutting programs and as a result we have to reduce workforce associated with that,” the city manager said.
Dias also told the elected officials merit pay in the 2020 fiscal year has been eliminated. If the economy recovers, City Hall could consider reinstating a portion of merit pay or performance-based bonuses, he said.
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Park City leaders on Thursday will likely hold a special meeting to consider an idea crafted by Main Street businesses to close the street to traffic on Sundays in the summer and early fall in favor of a pedestrian zone.