As expected, the City of Moab has notified a number of employees they will be laid off effective June 4. A few others were furloughed, and some were offered permanent part-time status, according to a statement from spokesperson Lisa Church.
The action taken May 21 impacted every city department and included nine full-time positions eliminated as part of a reduction in force; two employees were furloughed from their full-time positions. They were offered permanent part-time jobs. One person whose full-time job was eliminated was given a permanent part-time position. Two employees volunteered to be furloughed and three vacant positions were eliminated. These steps are in addition to cuts made March 13 when 60 part-time employees were terminated, one full-time employee was terminated and six full-time employees were furloughed, according to Church.
The departments impacted from both layoffs include four from general administration with two terminations and two furloughs. Recreation, easily the hardest hit, lost a total of 68 employees, not counting 18 inactive employees whose names were taken off the books in March.
Three Public Works employees were let go and one was furloughed in March. Five positions were eliminated. One Public Safety employee was furloughed as were two other people and their positions. One person and their position was eliminated in Planning and Engineering and two employees were furloughed, said Church in an email.
All affected employees eliminated on May 21 will continue to have health insurance coverage until June 30.
“This is regrettable but unavoidable as the city begins restructuring operations in the face of lost sales tax revenue while the community and local economy have been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said City Manager Joel Linares. “We realize the hardship this will cause the employees affected by layoffs and we will help them access all resources available to assist them through this difficult time.”
Even before the COVID-19 situation arose, the city was facing a $1.2 million budget shortfall. Hiring and spending freezes were instituted in February and significant cuts to employee benefits, merit raises and longevity pay were made to enable the city to go into the fiscal year starting in July with a balanced budget and a small amount in its reserves, said an announcement from Church. All departments had also made significant cuts to their proposed 2020-2021 budgets, enabling the city to reach $1.2 million in cost reductions needed to balance the FY 2021 budget, said Church.
Said Linares, “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have now necessitated even deeper budget cuts, as the city anticipates losing $3 million to $5 million in expected sales tax revenues during the upcoming fiscal year. City departments have made extensive cuts to planned projects and other expenditures, but those did not total enough savings to make up for the lost tax revenue. Staff layoffs and further furloughs are a last-resort measure, and sadly, the only remaining option,” he said.
As part of city restructuring, remaining employees will take on additional duties.
“Just as businesses in the Moab community have had to make changes and adjustments, city government will also not be operating in the same way it has,” Linares said. “We will still provide all basic services such as water, sewer, streets and park maintenance at the same high levels as always, but other reductions in many departments may mean slight delays in serving the public. Still, all our employees will continue working hard to meet the community’s needs.”
City administrators said the hope is that layoffs and additional furloughs will be temporary, and that over time the city may be able to phase back in many of the jobs eliminated, said Church.
“This pandemic is breaking my heart,” said Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus. “The actions we are having to take right now — our government and our business community — are devastating to the people we love. We are forced into the position of making unthinkable decisions that impact our Moab family.”