Oregon plans to eliminate 25 positions next year

Kelly J. Kaczala

        The City of Oregon plans to eliminate up to 25 positions through attrition next year, saving about $2 million, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
        City Administrator Mike Beazley made the comments at a recent council meeting.
        “Nobody knows the impact this is going to have on us short-term. We’ll eat through some cash. Long-term, though, it could lead to a 10-20 percent revenue challenge for a four to five year period based on the way our revenue comes in from a few large industrial employers,” said Beazley. “So we’re looking to get smaller for four to five years. Together, with council, as we look to next year’s budget process, we’ll make some decisions together and look at what services we can cut back on. We think we can achieve that without a horrible problem. We’ve done it before. We did it during the Great Recession. We’re ready to do it again. We think we have the elasticity to achieve that and trim back our services a little bit.”
        Beazley said the city does not know how hard “of a cash hit” will take place this year.
         “We have cash in the bank to help us weather it. We believe the best way to save dollars long-term for the taxpayers is through attrition and downsizing. Layoffs are expensive – you have health care costs, unemployment costs, and you end up saving .50 on the dollar for a layoff. We’d rather avoid that,” said Beazley.
        Mayor Mike Seferian said the administration has received support from the city workforce.
        “We’ve been enjoying cooperation from the managers and the workforce to do whatever seems to work and keep everyone employed,” he said.
Flexible staff
        The city workforce, said Beazley, is performing a variety of tasks to remain flexible.
        “Our goal is to keep our workforce working,” he said. “Everyone is trying to be a little more flexible. Our building inspectors are going to help mow some grass this week. Our grass grows a lot. We’re hiring dramatically fewer seasonal employees. We have only a couple of them working. We’re cancelling all our civil service tests right now. We’re going to save that expense because we don’t look to hire people from the outside right now.”
        The recreation department “is kind of in an unusual place because we don’t have programming,” he said.
        “We’re doing it online. The people in the rec department are also helping in other departments,” said Beazley, adding that the department’s management is also out mowing lawns.
        All of the city departments are open to the public, he added, but business is performed by phone, email, and text.
        “We’re trying to follow the advice of the governor. Our departments are all working. But we’re trying to do it without having public access. In most departments, we have staggered shifts to reduce contact from employee to employee to make sure we stay safe,” he said.
Gradual reopening
        The city hopes to return to regular shifts at some point this month.
        “That’s tempered by the governor’s recommendation to still find ways to stagger. So we’re working through those issues and also working toward the time we can reopen our hallways to the public,” he said. “We’re likely to shift to regular staff hours first, and gradually allow more public access.”
        The Public Service Department has ordered plexiglass screening for the counters, just like you see in the grocery stores. In general, our departments are functioning, going through unusual times, just like our residents are,” he said.
        Fire and police runs are down.
        “Fire runs are down about 45 percent, he said. “Our expenses are up because we’re staffing more to make sure we’re there and available and can achieve separation better,” he said.
        Police runs are also down, with the exception of domestic violence. “We’re not stopping cars and pulling them over. Our traffic load is down,” he said.
        The municipal court has delayed the vast majority of activity “except for those things that have to take place.”
        Building inspections area still occurring. “Our inspectors are working from their homes and their cars. We had three new houses start in a week. So there’s still activity going on,” he said.
        Engineering and design of public service projects are “going full speed ahead,” said Beazley.
        “A lot of projects are going on. But we’re really slowing down some of our construction projects. We’re looking to make sure we’re ready to move if there’s stimulus dollars. But for those things we don’t have to get done this year are going to be delaying,” said Beazley.
        Councilman Terry Reeves, who is also chairman of the Recreation and Parks Committee, asked about the future of sports in the city.
        Beazley said Gov. DeWine’s limit of public gatherings to groups of 10 or less make it difficult for sporting activities and sporting events to occur anytime soon.
        “It’s going to be hard to do what we want to do based on what we have,” said Beazley. “We are expecting the governor to keep us limited to groups of 10 or fewer through the month of May. We’ll see what happens on June 1 and what kind of programs we can do. We’re prepared to be flexible.”


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