Yukon City Manager Jim Crosby laid off 18 city full-time employees Thursday saying that he regretted the move but that it was unavoidable with the COVID-19 outbreak slashing city revenue.
“This is hardest part of my job because it affects families,” he said.
The city also is not using its part-time employees.
“It’s difficult for them because they are counting on these jobs,” Crosby said.
The layoffs are expected to save the city $1 million in salaries, retirement, life insurance, health insurance and dental insurance, he said.
Before the layoffs, each city department decreased it budget by 2% for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, saving $604,000, Crosby said. The lay-offs are
expected to save the city an additional $1 million.
He commented on his decision during a Zoom version of the Yukon Chamber of Com-merce’s monthly luncheon.
Sales tax revenue, which is already down, probably will drop even further as the pandemic continues to affect the city, he said.
Revenue from the city’s lodging tax also has declined, with hotels and motels operating at 8 to 9% of capacity, barely making it worthwhile to stay open, he said.
The stimulus bills Congress passed provide nothing for Yukon and other cities its size, Crosby added.
Although the city has the highest reserves in its history, those reserves won’t fully cover revenue shortages that Crosby expects to last several months.
Chamber member Jarrid Wright asked Crosby to clarify why the layoffs were necessary.
The city is likely to lose 25 to 50% of its sales tax revenue, Crosby responded.
With payroll making up 85% of city spending, layoffs are the only way to save significantly, he said.
The city isn’t utilizing many of its workers with the library and recreation centers closed, Crosby said.
In a press release, Crosby said that each employee will still receive health insurance for two months after their last day of work.
In addition, furloughed employees are on a call-back list and will have the right to remain in their position if it opens back up in the next six months, he said.
“Decisions like this are never easy,” Crosby said. “If the economy turns around in the near future, I’d like to look at hiring these employees back. It is our hope and prayer they will return.”
Crosby told the chamber that he expects a slow recovery from the downtown.
“Places like Hobby Lobby will need a kickstart, including hiring staff back,” he said.
Despite bringing the bad news of the layoffs, the city manager said he had good news on capital improvements.
Work on a 1,500-foot bridge over the North Canadian River that is part of a realignment of State Highway 4 to the west between Wilshire Boulevard and Wagoner Road is proceeding well.
After this project is completed, the city and the Oklahoma Dep-artment of Trans-portation will partner in improvements of SH-4 south from Main Street to Wagner Road, he said.
The city is completing the acquisition of right-of-way for the new interchange at Interstate 40 and Frisco Road, and the project is expected to begin in June, Crosby said.
Construction of the interchange, which is expected to take 18 months, will open up the Frisco Road area to stores, hotels, offices and homes, he said.
Chamber CEO Pam Shelton said that the chamber is in a good financial position and continues to employ its staff of four.
The chamber’s Zoom meeting started with a prayer by City Council member Shelli Selby, asking God to “place a healing over our nation … and bless our businesses.”
The Rev. Tim Baer, vicar of Grace Church – Episcopal, gave the closing prayer.
He prayed for the doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians and other medical professionals and for everyone to have a broad perspective so they can feel safe.