HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said the city will begin a “reduction in force” in response to the coronavirus. The reduction started on Monday.
The mayor said there are projected shortfalls in sales tax revenues from COVID-19’s effect on the city’s economy, and the city’s general fund is dependent on the tax dollars generated from retail sales.
Hattiesburg officials said the March numbers indicate a downturn for when parts of the economy were shut down for less than half the month. They said the shortfall could double for April.
“We have endeavored to be very transparent throughout the city’s response to COVID-19. We believe our employees and our citizens deserve to know the good, the bad and the difficult decisions we are making as a city throughout this public health crisis,” said Barker. “This crisis has challenged us all, and this decision, while painful, is necessary.”
In March, the city started two policies to help with cost-savings and to lessens the impacts for the spread of COVID-19:
- Restricting out-of-town city-sponsored travel
- A hiring freeze for general fund positions (except for essential public safety personnel)
While these policies will help cover some of the revenue shortfalls, city leaders said sales tax revenues will continue to lag behind last year’s totals. With six months left in the fiscal year, leaders believe a reduction in force will help Hattiesburg reduce expenses and possibly alleviate the need for more layoffs.
The process for deciding which positions will be dissolved is based on several criteria given to directors so that they can make recommendations. When deciding reduction in force, they will consider the following factors:
- critical nature of the position to the provision of city services;
- employee attendance and discipline history;
- experience, professional training, length of service and work assignment;
- skills and licensure in the area where the city has a requirement;
- and positions with shared similar duties within an area.
The full news release is on the City of Hattiesburg’s website.