The city of North Charleston is nixing nearly 200 jobs as part of its strategy to deal with a budget shortfall from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and more cuts are anticipated.
Mayor Keith Summey signed an executive order (.pdf) on Wednesday that called for the elimination of nearly 200 jobs — 51 unfilled positions, 125 part-time positions and 21 full-time employees. The cuts will come from across departments, according to city spokesman Ryan Johnson.
The personnel cuts are expected to save the city $6.8 million annually. In addition, the city scaled its budget back to $127 million before adopting it, shedding $6 million, and cut capital and operational expenses by about $5.5 million throughout all departments, according to a statement from the city.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected expenses and loss of revenue, leading to a “significant budget shortfall” for the upcoming fiscal year, which began July 1, the city said.
The majority of the city’s revenue is driven by economic forces including hotel accommodations taxes, sales taxes, and business license and permit fees.
“Prior to COVID-19, property taxes accounted for only 46% of the city’s overall budget,” the city statement said. “Our local business community has been hit hard by the pandemic, and therefore, the city’s budget and projected revenues have been heavily affected.”
The city is also instituting a hiring freeze, the executive order said, and more cuts are forecast: “It is anticipated that the position elimination measures above, while significant, will not be sufficient to overcome the immediate financial shortfalls,” the order reads, going on to say the city will work with departments to find other positions that could be eliminated.
The full-time employees being cut are those “in which the current employee has shown ongoing performance deficiencies,” defined in the order as have annual performance rating lower than 3.0. The cuts to part-time workers will eliminate nearly all the part-time employees in the city.
The city is also considering offering incentives for employees to retire if they meet certain requirements, according to the order.
Early in the pandemic, when stay-at-home orders were put in place, the city sent some employees home with pay. Those employees returned to work once the state reopened.
The order said if the city is able to rehire for the affected jobs in the future, those currently in the jobs will receive preference for returning to the positions, all candidates being equal.
“The city will continue to monitor the ongoing impact on its operational budgets set forth by these extraordinary circumstances and will continue to provide the most efficient services possible under these budgetary constraints,” the city’s statement read.i