Somewhere between 1,300 and 1,700 employees with the city of Cincinnati could be temporarily laid off as the city faces a huge budget shortfall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney has proposed starting Sunday, April 5, about 650 full-time employees and around 1,000 part-time positions will be placed on temporary emergency leave (TEL). Not all the part-time positions are presently filled. This applies to all non-critical city employees. The layoffs will last for at least four weeks and could be extended.
Those workers will have two options: they can use any paid leave they have accumulated, or they can be placed on unpaid TEL status making them eligible for unemployment benefits. With both options, the city will still provide health insurance to eligible workers.
"I understand there will be feelings of uneasiness and uncertainty ahead, but please know this situation is considered a temporary solution," City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a memo to city employees. "We have every intent of bringing all employees back to city service as soon as possible."
Mayor John Cranley said in a memo to those facing layoffs, "you do not deserve this; it is not your fault."
"Due to this immediate sharp decrease in revenue, the city must act quickly to cut costs in the short term during this crisis in order to ensure that we can bring the city back to full service as quickly as possible when this is over," Cranley wrote. "The number of people being placed on temporary emergency leave is staggering and it is understandable to be scared by it. This decision has nothing to do with your performance."
However, City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld suggested the TEL will be discussed further at a special budget and finance committee meeting Wednesday.
"The city administration is making plans with major consequences for city employees that really need to be unpacked and explained in much greater details," Sittenfeld said in a tweet. "Lots of excellent city employees' jobs hang in the balance. Both city council, and most of all, city workers deserve more clear communication."
We are calling for a special Budget & Finance meeting this Wednesday, likely scheduled to start late morning. The City Administration is making plans with major consequences for city employees that really need to be unpacked and explained in much greater detail. 1/2— P.G. Sittenfeld (@PGSittenfeld) March 30, 2020
The city is predicting major revenue losses for the rest of this fiscal year, and for the new one beginning July 1.
A city memo said at the end of February the city had a positive general fund variance of $24 million. Now that has been revised to a negative variance of $27.5 million. That's why the city is implementing the TEL now to help reduce expenses.
For the new fiscal year, officials are predicting an $80 million general fund deficit if COVID-19 is contained by June. That number will increase if the pandemic continues beyond June.
The city is also spending additional money. The memo suggests the city could spend $13.1 million a month related to its response to the crisis. That includes money for overtime, callout pay and additional supplies including personal protective equipment.
The city manager now expects to release his proposed budget for the new fiscal year on May 21. That's about two weeks later than first planed. City Council could vote on a budget June 24.