The City of Lawton will close most city offices Friday, as the first furlough day being imposed to save money in the current fiscal year.
But, employees to be furloughed will not include police officers or firefighters because that decision must be negotiated and union officials have not agreed to the plan, city administrators said. Union officials indicated they will explain that decision today.
City Council members approved the plan last month as a way to trim expenditures in the current fiscal year as city administrators brace for revenue loses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. City Manager Michael Cleghorn said two furlough days will be imposed this fiscal year — one in May and one in June — while the 2020-2021 fiscal year that begins July 1 was calculated with 12 furlough days, a total he said could be adjusted depending on revenues for the year.
This fiscal year, general employees will be furloughed on May 22 and June 12, and Friday’s furlough day means a four-day weekend for general employees because Monday is holiday for Memorial Day. The furlough days will not apply to police officers and firefighters, whose work schedules are determined by contracts negotiated by city and union representatives.
City administrators had said they would reopen negotiations with those unions to negotiate furlough days, but City of Lawton officials said Tuesday the unions had not agreed to furlough their members. City administrators said they are “working on other, equivalent cost-saving measures from those two departments,” according to a statement.
The city initially had calculated it would save $400,000 in the current fiscal year from the two furlough days, based on all three employee groups and their staffing levels set in the current year’s budget. But, Deputy City Manager Bart Hadley said this week that total savings for two days had been adjusted to $348,040, based on current staffing levels (the city imposed a hiring freeze months ago as a cost-saving measure, meaning some positions included in the budget actually are vacant as part of a decision to fill only critical positions).
Based on eight-hour days, each furlough day is calculated to save $99,770 for general employees, $48,050 for police union members and $26,200 for fire union members. Hadley said that means the city will save almost $200,000 by furloughing general employees for two days.
Hadley said city administrators would look at other options for saving funding from the police and fire departments. He said those options could include action to suspend filling open positions in each department beyond the time originally projected for an empty position (the opening would remain until the furlough cost saving amount was reached); reducing the number of budgeted police officers and firefighters by one in each department to make up the estimated furlough savings (the positions would be restored when the cost savings total was reached); or making additional cuts to operational expenses, to include non-essential, non-required training.
City administrators said no new agreement has been reached for the fiscal year that begins July 1, meaning those same options for trimming costs could be options in the next fiscal year. Cleghorn said furloughs were calculated for all employees at one per month for the full fiscal year, a total that could be increased or decreased depending on available revenues.
In the meantime, the furlough plans means most city offices will be closed Friday for the furlough day and Monday for Memorial Day. The closure will affect city offices that had only recently reopened to the public, including the utilities department, the license/permits office and Lawton Public Library. The furlough and holiday also means that trash routes will not be run on Friday or Monday; normal routes will resume Tuesday.
However, the city landfill will be open Friday, but closed Saturday for its furlough day and Monday for Memorial Day. Normal operations will resume Tuesday.
Essential services, to include police, fire and emergency dispatching, will continue normal operations, city administrators said.