ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore announced that furloughs planned for all Elkhart city employees in 2013 will not be necessary after all.
Moore announced Monday afternoon that city department heads have turned over enough leftover funds from their 2012 budgets to cover the cost of fully employing all city workers in the new year.
Under Moore’s budget plan, the city was ready to implement three-day furloughs for all city police and firefighters and five-day furloughs for all other city workers.
The furloughs were part of an overall $1.9 million budget-cutting effort proposed by Moore after city officials learned that they would have significantly less property tax revenues than earlier expected.
Police and firefighters union representatives had threatened to file suit against the city if the furloughs were implemented. Now, though, no action by the unions will be necessary, presuming the city council follows up Moore’s announcement by appropriating the funding previously removed from the 2013 budget per the fulough plan.
“We’re just elated that the money’s there, that city employees won’t lose income or money in these trying times,” said James Ballard, an Elkhart policeman and head of the Elkhart lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.
The city council will meet Jan. 7 and will likely have an ordinance ready for consideration, fully restoring funding for city employees, said Arvis Dawson, assistant to the mayor.
“I must thank all of our department heads who understood the position we were in and joined with me in this austerity move,” Moore said in a prepared statement. “I respectfully ask the council to support the administration in this effort to restore the funding.”
Council members expressed concern during budget talks last fall about the impact furloughs would have on public safety. And on Monday, Councilman Dave Henke said the council would likely take the necessary action to replace the salary funding cut for the furloughs, per Moore’s announcement.
“We saw the furloughs as bad business to begin with,” a “morale killer,” even, Henke said.
He’s glad furloughts won’t be necessary, but took the opportunity to knock what he sees as lack of transparency in the Moore administration. The mayor cited lack of city funds in pushing earlier this year, unsuccessfully, for new trash-collection fees, Henke noted, yet now annouces that excess funds are available, precluding the need for furloughs.
“The double talk is difficult for the public, it’s difficult for the council,” Henke said.
City controller Steve Malone was not available for comment, but Dawson said enough money had been found to cover the estimated $401,985 needed to fully employ city workers.