A hiring freeze is being placed by the city of McMinnville and current employees may not receive a cost of living increase in the upcoming year.
During a telephone conference held Tuesday morning between members of the city Finance Committee and administrative staff, those three measures were among the items discussed in order to set boundaries on departmental budgets before they are submitted and look ahead at the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the city’s revenue stream.
“As everybody knows, it’s going to be difficult next year,” said Alderman Everett Brock. “We are going to receive $332,000 from the state, but that’s going to be a drop in the bucket.”
Brock said his biggest concern is the reduction in sales tax revenue due to businesses being shut down.
“I’m really concerned about sales tax. That’s what bothers me,” said Brock. “Certainly, the tax on toilet paper is going to be great. It won’t be good for anything other than food and things like that.”
He recommended that a cost of living adjustment (COLA) not be included in any departmental budget proposed for fiscal year 2020-21.
“We can always plug it in later,” said Brock. “Let’s see what the numbers are without that.”
In previous years, an increase is provided to employees either through a COLA and/or a step increase. An increase is factored into proposed budgets to see what the numbers were with it. This year’s process will be the opposite.
“I think that goes without saying that we should freeze employment,” said Brock.
Not included in that freeze will be part-time seasonal employees within McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department. Those will be hired as needed.
Harvey says he’s fine with planning ahead, but there are a lot of future unknowns that will change any decisions made prior.
“I’m all in favor of planning and trying to get some ideas together as soon as possible, but there’s just so much that we don’t know,” said Harvey. “We don’t have a clue of how bad our sales tax numbers are going to be yet. We don’t know if they’ll be off 50 percent or 10 percent. That’s what makes this so hard.”
Brock added, “What I’d like to do is make some assumptions, right or wrong, that we can run through and see where the numbers are. We can plug in numbers. We can at least see now where we can cut later if need be. We’ve got to start someplace.”
City administrator Nolan Ming will use the information from the meeting to help department directors generate their budget requests for fiscal year 2020-21.