In an executive session that lasted almost two and a half hours, the Board of Aldermen voted Thursday to furlough 135 city employees as a cost-cutting measure after the city of Oxford has experienced fiscal deficits as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
These 135 workers make up more than 30% of the city’s full-time employees, and Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the city will also not hire around 150 part-time seasonal workers this year. These part-time workers usually are employed to work at mTrade Park, the city pool and the city’s landscaping services.
“Today has been the darkest day I’ve had as an alderman and as your mayor,” Tannehill said. “Today, the board has had to make the tough decision to furlough more than 100 of our full-time employees.”
In addition to the furloughs, the board voted to extend Oxford’s stay-at-home order for another 10 days, until April 30. The order will continue to have the same terms that were set in March. Tannehill said that it is possible that there could be a reopening plan for Oxford created as soon as next week.
“We are committed to next week putting together a plan where we reopen and have some dates in place, knowing that if there are surges in cases, that may not be possible,” she said. “Our goal is to have a plan that dictates how we will reopen and when that date could be.”
City employees who have been affected by the furlough have already been notified, and furloughs will begin on April 23. They will still receive benefits, and Tannehill said the board hopes to hire back all furloughed employees by this fall.
“You’ll definitely see a reduction in the services that we can provide because of these furloughs,” she said. “This decision was certainly not made lightly. Each furlough not only affects that person. It affects fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and coworkers — and really all of the citizens of Oxford.”
Tannehill said that sales tax makes up around a third of the operating budget for the city of Oxford, and that city officials project that they will see a deficit of approximately $3 million in the overall projected revenues for this fiscal year. If the trend continues, Tannehill said that it is projected that this could jump to a 20% deficit — around $6.7 million.
“At this time, we cannot continue to pay our valuable employees who are not performing critical tasks for the city. It literally literally breaks my heart to be at this point,” she said, stating that the city of Oxford operates “just like any other business operates.”
The city will suspend curbside recycling pick-ups starting on May 1; however, two recycling drop-off stations will remain operating, one on Molly Barr Road next to the police department and the other on Highway 7 near the fire station. Recycling left on curbs after this date will be considered garbage.
“We just can’t rationalize continuing to spend ($500,000) during this time of financial crisis.”