Battle Creek furloughs employees amid budget woes

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Battle Creek furloughed 95 employees amid anticipated budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city says the employees will be furloughed for the month of May and some workers are furloughed until part of June. However, officials say the furloughs could be extended until July.

Officials say the city manager, assistant city manager, city attorney along with 27 department heads and division managers will take a 3% pay cut for the next three months.

Projections indicate there will be an estimated $839,178 of expenditures over revenue in the current budget year, and an estimated $4.9 million of expenditures over revenue for the next budget year, according to a news release from the city.

Officials say these revenue gaps are anticipated because of fewer sales tax monies being collected, reduced state revenue sharing to local governments and less gas and weight taxes coming in.

Leaders are expecting a big dip in city income taxes because unemployment and folks telecommuting from homes outside the city are not subject to that tax.

Income taxes make up more than 30% of the city’s general fund revenue, which supports most of the city’s operating expenses like employee salaries and benefits.

“I feel grateful for our entire team’s service and professionalism,” said City Manager Rebecca Fleury in a release. “There is no question that these are tough decisions, and we will continue discussing these issues for the foreseeable future as Battle Creek, and communities across the country, continue serving our communities during the challenges the pandemic presents.”

City leaders note they will communicate to state and federal officials the need for local aid.

Residents can participate in the Battle Creek City Commission budget workshop starting at 6 p.m. May 7. The meeting will be done remotely with live broadcast on AccessVision cable channels, via Live 17 at accessvision.tv, and on the city’s Facebook page.

People can email public comments to City Clerk Victoria Houser at vlhouser@battlecreekmi.gov or by placing written comments, addressed to the City Commission, in the payment drop box in the parking lot of city hall by noon the day of the meeting.

More information about the workshop can be found online.