Cantrell says furloughs will not affect city services

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NEW ORLEANS – Mayor LaToya Cantrell says the city’s finances are not where they should be, causing city employees to start taking furloughs.

The mayor says the furloughs will not affect city services or safety.

“We’re currently experiencing an unprecedented fiscal crisis,” Cantrell said. “As you know, these are unprecedented times.”

Budget reduction plans, hiring freezes, and a scaling back of overtime have not been enough to curb the affects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the city’s budget.

Cantrell has announced that more than 4,000 city employees will be required to take furloughs starting Sunday.

“To our employees, please know that the proposed furloughs are budgetary management decisions to ensure that we can balance the 2020 budget,” Cantrell said. “It is not a reflection on the performance of our people. They are dedicated, they demonstrated that. But we have to take this step.”

Employees will take one day off per pay period through the end of the year. The mayor says this could help save the city $6 million.

The result of these furloughs amounts to about a 10 percent pay cut per city employee. Cantrell said she hopes the furloughs do not become layoffs.

“We don’t want to lose great talent,” she said. “It can take years sometimes to bounce back if you cut people.”

The city employees affected include police officers and firefighters. The mayor says this shouldn’t affect city services, as the days of these furloughs are so spread out in a two week period.

The head of the firefighters union says furloughs will have a huge affect on city safety.

Aaron Mischler told WGNO that the fire department is so short-staffed, that even if each firefighter is furloughed for just one day per pay period, some engine houses will not have the manpower to stay open.

And Mischler says he hopes the City Council will step in to stop the furloughs.

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