Faced with declining revenues, McComb officials on Tuesday discussed the possibility of making significant pay and hour cuts for all employees.
City Administrator Dirkland Smith told the board that the city is consistently falling short on its estimated budget projects by $95,000 a month, with an estimated 28% loss every month until August, which led him to consider the cuts.
In Smith’s recommendation, hourly workers would face a cut from 40 hours to 32 hours a week, department heads’ pay would be cut 2%, and Smith would take a 3% cut. That would last until the end of September.
The only employees whose pay would not be affected are firefighters and police officers.
Smith’s proposed cuts to hourly workers alone would save the city about $795,000, which he said would cover the $578,000 shortfall the city would face by the end of the fiscal year. Smith said he did not calculate the added savings with the pay cuts.
“Hopefully, with those things in mind, we should be able to balance our books in September,” he said.
Smith added that once the budget is balanced, the city will revert employee hours and salaries back to normal.
Mayor Quordiniah Lockley asked Smith if he had talked to the city’s department heads about the cuts before making this recommendation, and Smith said he had.
“For the most part, the majority of them said they would rather take a pay cut along with their employees because they could not come to work and face their employees without taking some kind of a cut,” Smith said.
Selectman Donovan Hill asked Smith if he had talked to the city’s hourly employees about the cut, which Smith said he had, and the employees said they would go along with hour cuts if it were consistent throughout the city’s payroll.
These proposed hourly cuts would not affect the city’s operating hours, Smith said all city buildings would remain open five days a week for the same amount of hours, but the hourly cut would come from department heads using a more flexible schedule to space out the work.
Selectman Ronnie Brock asked Smith and Lockley why the city did not decide to lay any employees off, and Smith said even with the hourly reductions, employees are still considered full-time and maintain health insurance and retirement benefits.
Multiple selectmen asked Smith if the board could take a pay cut as well, and Smith said that would be up to them.
“I don't see why we shouldn’t be included in this budget cut as well because if our whole city is going to be taking a cut, we should too,” Selectman Donovan Hill said.
Selectman Devante Johnson asked if the board and city employees could take a 10% pay cut across the board. The board asked Smith if he could provide a projection accounting the 10% by the next board meeting.
The city previously paid off a $1.5 million loan on itself, which was used to pay employees, and Brock asked why another loan couldn’t be made. Smith said the city would still have to pay it off by the end of the fiscal year in September.
Brock also asked if the city could cut down or freeze overtime to curb spending, and Smith said each department is running “close to streamline” and would have trouble further reducing overtime, but he would talk to department head again about the issue.
The board also questioned Smith on the use of individual selectmen’s travel budgets, and Smith said they have been frozen and left in their accounts. Brock and Hill said the money should be moved from the travel account and placed in the general fund. Smith recommended if the board wants to move the money, it should go into paying bills.
Johnson said he spoke with Selectman Shawn Williams about the travel budget and suggested moving it into the Alpha Center’s budget for repairs, but Hill, Brock and Williams all agreed that the money should go toward bills.
“This money should be used toward paying bills. The only thing we should be talking about is barebones spending and paying bills,” Hill said.
Brock also suggested taking all the left over cash from the MLK gym renovation project and moving it into the general fund, which Smith said he would look in to by the next board meeting.
Lockley said the state could have anywhere from a 10% to a 50% loss in tax revenue for the month of May, and fears what that may do to the city with compounding bills coming from debris cleanup in the April 23 tornado.
“We need to understand that we are acting as a bank for this cleanup,” he said. “We will be reimbursed, but they may not get it back this fiscal year. ... We may be eating all of that up. That does not look good.”