PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Saying they have no other choice after the state gutted their operating budget, city officials have scheduled what they are calling a shutdown day at the end of the month affecting 92 full-time employees who will have a day off without pay.
Deputy City Manager Martin Puckett said Tuesday afternoon that the move was “painful but necessary” and was made by the City Council after all other cuts had been exhausted.
It will take place Friday, Aug. 30, which was chosen because it falls in a five paycheck month with the hope that it will minimize the financial impact on employees. It also was chosen because it falls on Labor Day weekend when many people are traveling.
Only public safety employees such as police, fire and dispatch workers will remain on the job.
Puckett said Tuesday that 22 percent of the city’s operating budget was covered by state revenue sharing funds. In order to balance the budget, the council needed to cover a $458,533 shortfall created by the state when it reduced revenue sharing by 35 percent. The council had to cut $50,366 in personnel expenses from the $458,533 figure.
“The council had already taken several steps to reduce the budget,” Puckett explained. “The city delayed purchases, sold some city equipment and extended some of the projects that are part of our capital improvement plan. But we decided that the shutdown day was something that had to be done. It impacts everyone from management on down.”
The shutdown day will resolve approximately $12,000 of the $50,366 needed. The city has taken steps that they believe will recover the remainder of the personnel expenses, according to Puckett, by reducing contributions to retirement accounts for non-union employees and also requiring employees hired prior to 1996 to pay more for their health insurance.
He said that the idea for the furlough day came from the state, which has forced its employees to take several furlough days in the past.
In 2009 and 2010, the city of Augusta forced city employees to take eight unpaid furlough days each year to help balance the budget. In 2011, city employees took four unpaid furlough days.