Several city employees to be furloughed; overtime limited for police, firemen

By JON ALVERSON JALVERSON@DDTONLINE.COM,

As many as 25 city employees will be furloughed for up to 120 days starting June 1.

Greenville City Council took the action to cut costs in the wake expected sales tax revenue shortfalls due to shut-downs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the furloughs, overtime for police and fire departments will be limited, work on non-emergency city projects will cease and a hiring freeze has been enacted.

The city is also halting all summer youth sports. No city facilities will be offered for rental, playground equipment is off limits and basketball courts are closed.

The city is lifting its curfew, and restaurants that do not serve alcohol will be allowed to be open 24-hours per day. According to state guidelines, restaurants that serve alcohol must stop in-house dining at 10 p.m.

The City of Greenville will lose about 9.45% in sales tax revenue from this time last year, with collections down by more than $48,000.

In 2019, sales tax revenue in Greenville was $556,895, but this April revenue was $508,836. Since the beginning of this fiscal year in July 2019, sales tax collections for the city are down 1.32% from 4,973,657 to $4,908,244. 

The effect on municipal budgets from lost sales tax revenue won’t be seen until June, but transfers to cities statewide were already down 7.3% compared to last year according to state Department of Revenue records.

During the second of two special meetings on Friday to address these issues, Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons expressed his disagreement with the path the state is on.

“I think we are opening too early,” Simmons said. “City officials are here on the front lines. We don’t have the comfort or convenience to send a tweet from Pennsylvania Avenue or live in a governor’s mansion. I think the state is putting profit over people.”

Though Simmons made the comments disagreeing with reopening the city, he said the city and council would abide by all federal, state and CDC guidelines.

City Hall will remain closed to the public, but walking trails in parks and the levee trail are open to the public.

The city adopted no policy concerning in-person worship at churches and noted the state’s recommendations were not mandates.

At a meeting in January, city council members voted to increase their pay by about $6,000 and the mayor’s salary by about $16,000.