Park City government plans no layoffs, furloughs even as private sector suffers broad losses
The Park City government is not considering layoffs or staff furloughs through at least June 30, the end of the municipal fiscal year, the city manager said this week, a sign that officials see the current budget as having short-term sturdiness even as there have been widespread convulsions in the private-sector labor market in recent weeks.
City Manager Matt Dias in an interview acknowledged a revenue shortfall is projected in the municipal budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which started on July 1, 2019, and ends on June 30. The steep drop in economic activity caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus, including the closures of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort several weeks before they planned to stop running the lifts and the shutdown of numerous other businesses, triggered City Hall to activate a recession plan. Nearly all municipal hirings have been frozen, capital projects have been temporarily delayed and expenditures deemed not to be essential have been suspended.
Dias said officials are in the early stages of the internal budget discussions. Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council are scheduled to start the budget talks later in the spring as they prepare to adopt the spending plan in June. Dias said the budget planning has been “upended.” He also said, though, there are budget staffers remaining at the Marsac Building from the recession more than a decade ago, providing institutional knowledge as City Hall readies for what will almost certainly be the most difficult budgeting process since the recession.
The timing of the spread of the disease, though, is seen as fortuitous for Park City’s tourism-driven economy. Much of the ski season business had already been conducted by the time the novel coronavirus decimated travel. The March and April tourism numbers are projected to drop sharply on a year-over-year basis, but the crucial December-February stretch of the ski season was strong, meaning the financial impacts on City Hall will likely be contained.
Dias said the municipal government and the wider business community had already collected nearly four months of revenue by the time the mountain resorts closed. He said the community is “blessed” with the timing as he compared the impacts to those that would have occurred had the disease spread in December, as Park City prepared for the lucrative stretch from the holidays to the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“We were fortunate to receive the economic hit when we did,” Dias said, also conceding City Hall itself is not “immune” to the drop.
The municipal government is among the largest employers in Park City, with staffing levels in 2019 ranging between 647 and 512, according to data compiled for an annual City Hall financial report. The numbers put City Hall in the top six employers in Park City, based on the number of maximum workers at any point in a year.
The municipal plans to retain staff could eventually draw questions from rank-and-file Parkites if the downturn persists, particularly if the layoffs and the furloughs in the private sector continue. There are reports of layoffs, furloughs or reductions in hours across many industries. Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts this week indicated it is furloughing nearly 400 workers at PCMR starting Saturday and lasting for a minimum of several weeks. The employment situation appears to be dire elsewhere in the community as well with people working in industries that are largely dependent on the resorts suffering.
Dias said municipal staffers are continuing their regular work or have been shifted to other duties, such as those who work in buildings like the Park City Library and the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center that have been temporarily closed. They are helping deep clean buildings, performing regular maintenance and painting the interior of buildings.
“We’re trying to keep people employed,” Dias said, adding, “We’re trying to keep them productive.”
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.