Tuesday, December 1, 2020 - 3:42pm

When I released my Executive Budget in October, it included a mandatory furlough program requiring 2-4 furlough days for each City employee in 2021, with higher paid employees taking more days than lower paid employees. The impact was to be spread over all 2021 paychecks, with each paycheck reduced by 0.8% to 1.5%, based on the number of furlough days. Although nobody – including me – was happy to turn to a furlough program, it filled a $1.2 million budget gap in a way that avoided further layoffs or cuts to critical community services.

Now, with the adopted budget in place, City Labor unions and the Common Council have made it clear that they would like to start with a voluntary program – the Voluntary Unpaid Time Away (VUTA) program – in the hopes that it can reduce the size of a mandatory furlough program. Given how important this is to them, I am willing to try a voluntary program first.

City employees will have from December 1 to December 15 to sign-up for voluntary furlough days with their supervisor’s approval. Staff from City Finance will then calculate the remaining balance we need to gain through a mandatory furlough program and implement that in April of 2021.

While I am moving forward with a Voluntary Unpaid Time Away program, I do have some concerns about issues of fairness that could arise in a voluntary program. I still believe a mandatory program – where everybody shares the burden, along a progressive scale – is the fairest approach.

Regardless of a difference in opinion about the best approach to take on a furlough program, I do recognize that all of us – labor representatives, the Common Council, and my office – are all working toward the same goal. We are all looking for the best way to ease the strain of a tight budget on City workers. My sincere hope is that the voluntary program will work as the Labor unions and Common Council hope it will, and that we achieve a seamless implementation and a smaller mandatory furlough program as a result.