Brooklyn Park Discusses COVID-19 Budget Impact, 10% of Staff on Leave
With Brooklyn Park City Hall closed to the general public and most staff members working remotely because of the novel coronavirus, the remodeling of city hall has progressed with few interruptions. That’s just one silver lining, according to Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel and Finance Director LaTonia Green, who gave a report Monday to the city council on how COVID-19 has impacted city services and the city budget.
Other silver linings, they said, include staff staying relatively healthy and becoming more innovative and nimble to provide services to the public. Construction projects, permits and plans remain in the pipeline.
However, city staff and council members acknowledge the long-term financial impact of COVID-19 will be significant and somewhat hard to predict.
“There’s pain all the way around,” said Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeff Lunde, in Monday night’s meeting. “There is no pain-free fix to 2021 in my mind.”
For the rest of 2020, the city is expected to lose $1.3 million in revenue, not including property taxes. The money would’ve come from receiving funds for school resource officers, recreational programs, permits, DMV services and more.
The city has responded to the projected loss by cutting $2.9 million in the first phase of cost reductions. Some projects are on hold, like the Central Park ice rink replacement and a reduced investment in fighting the emerald ash borer tree insect. The city started discussing options last month.
Other actions involve the biggest part of the Brooklyn Park budget: personnel costs. The city has a hiring freeze or a delay in hiring policy in place which includes five police officers, five fire cadets, a building inspector, fire inspector, and other public service workers and seasonal staff. There will also be no travel or non-essential training for staff.
More than 10 Percent of City Staff on Leave
More than 10 percent of the city’s 400 full-time employees are on leave. City manager Jay Stroebel says most of these leaves were voluntary, but some were non-voluntary.
“This will impact service levels, across most if not all departments,” said Stroebel. “You can’t take this number of employees out of the mix without impacting service levels.”
An example of the non-voluntary leave would include people who worked for the DMV, which is currently closed to the public.
“We are obviously not processing tabs or title changes things of that nature for the general public at this time, so we don’t have work for staff in that particular area,” said Stroebel.
Stroebel says in many cases, the persons on leave might be eligible for unemployment. He says people took voluntary leave for a variety of reasons, such as anxiety about working during COVID-19 or taking time off because they have the financial ability to do so.
“One team set up their leave to take different weeks off, so they could manage their workload in a way that is thoughtful,” said Stroebel.
During voluntary leave, people do get health insurance, but the time does not count toward paid time-off or contribute to their pension. City council members seemed satisfied with the current cost-saving measures.
“The plan that you’ve put forth to me seems very knowledgeable and common sense,” said Tonja West-Hafner, a Brooklyn Park City Council member.
You can watch the full city council meeting here.