Boulder’s city staff continues to shrink with permanent layoffs announced Monday as a result of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying stay-at-home orders and temporary business closures that are now starting to be lifted.
Cuts to non-essential municipal projects, programs and services are also taking place, with the decisions coming after 737 city staffers were already placed on unpaid furloughs for weeks.
The latest financial models project a more than $30 million loss in city revenues this year due to the impact of the virus on sales taxes and other revenue sources, a city news release said.
The city will lay off 56 standard and fixed-term employees, end temporary roles of another 68 employees and furlough an additional four standard employees. It will also keep 103 currently vacant staff positions unfilled through the end of 2020, for an estimated cost savings of $5 million.
Among the 121 furloughed standard full-time city staffers, 84 have already returned to work or will do so by June 29. The city is extending furloughs for 33 standard employees and 472 temporary employees through Sept. 20. Most of them, while highly valued, according to the release, are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their position. The city will continue to pay 100% of benefit-eligible employees’ health care insurance, for individuals and families, through the furlough.
“It is heartbreaking that the financial realities of the coronavirus pandemic have forced us to cut so deeply,” City Manager Jane Brautigam stated in the release. “These painful decisions were made as a last resort after exploring all other options; in making them, careful consideration was taken to prioritize public safety, essential services, basic needs of the community, and minimize impact to standard employees.”
Additionally, Boulder also implemented extended city holiday closures, resulting in estimated budget savings of more than $1.8 million, the release said. With the exception of emergency, health and life safety staff, all city staff will have a total of six unpaid days (five full days and two half-days) in 2020:
- Independence Day extended city closure holiday: July 2
- Summer weekend extended city closure holiday: Aug. 7
- Labor Day extended city closure holiday: Sept. 4
- Fall weekend extended city closure holiday: Oct. 9
- Thanksgiving extended city closure holiday: Nov. 27
- Christmas Eve extended city closure holiday: half-day Dec. 24
- New Year’s Eve extended city closure holiday: half-day Dec. 31
A “racial equity rapid assessment tool” that the city has developed to guide budget decisions continues to be used. It incorporates five equity questions when making process, budget, activity and service decisions related to the impact of the virus that causes COVID-19, to help avoid disproportionate impacts on community members of color.
“The city recognizes that progress must be swift and acknowledge this is an imperfect tool,” the release said.
Non-whites compose 14% of city employees, while 9.5% were impacted by a layoff or termination, the release said. In comparison, 86% of city employees identify as white, and 90.5% of those employees were hit by a layoff or termination.
Boulder may see a more significant decline in sales and use tax revenue than some other Front Range communities during the stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders because of hits to economic drivers, like the University of Colorado Boulder campus closure, the abrupt halt of tourism and cancellations of community events. Officials will present additional reductions of more than $18 million in non-personnel expenses at next week’s City Council meeting.