City leaders in Ketchikan are considering whether to cut back city workers’ hours to save money as the city faces a budget crunch. Members of the City Council floated the idea back in March, but a recent survey says most employees don’t like the idea.
The city says reducing its full-time non-union employees’ to four days a week could save $1.5 million this year. Council Member Judy Zenge floated the idea back in March when the city was considering laying off a firefighter to save money.
“I mean, if we reduced the hours of the library and the Ted Ferry Civic Center and — I’m forgetting one — the museum, would we be able to keep the firefighter and EMT?” Zenge asked.
The city laid off that firefighter-EMT last month.
Council Member Riley Gass suggested some employees might be willing to cut back their hours.
“It would certainly be worthwhile for those non-union employees that would have the option to at least just put it on the table and say, ‘Would you like to go to a four-day, eight-hour work week?’” he said.
So the city put the question to its workforce. But less than 10% of the city’s 260-odd workforce surveyed was interested. One reason cited is that the cut in hours would cut their paychecks by around 20%.
But Council Member Mark Flora warned back in March it might be a necessity.
“I think this may be the next place we have to go,” Flora said.
Council Member Janalee Gage said the idea was worth looking into.
But this month many employees said in the anonymous survey that they wouldn’t make ends meet with less and would likely find other jobs or even move away.
City employees work a number of essential functions. And respondents said residents would likely experience longer power outages, disruptions to the water system or response in emergencies.
Some fired back suggesting cutting the pay of senior city officials.
But some said they’d support a shorter work week if that meant nobody lost their job.
In a memo to the council, Ketchikan’s city manager recommends against the idea, at least for now. He says the city should wait until it’s determined how much federal pandemic relief it will receive under the American Rescue Plan.
The city manager did not provide an estimate of savings for unionized employees. That’s because working hours and rates of pay are established by collective bargaining agreements with employee unions.
Ketchikan’s City Council is set to discuss the reduced hours for non-union employees at its regular meeting Thursday which will be held virtually due to the heightened COVID-19 risk. The full agenda is available online. The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels and at the city’s website, and members of the public can call 228-5658 prior to the meeting to offer public comment.