TWINSBURG — It may have come on April 1, but it was no joke when Mayor Ted Yates announced in a video posted that day on the city’s Facebook page that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city will lay off three dozen full-time employees indefinitely, starting April 16.
"We’ve been trying to be proactive and adapt the best way we can as employer, as provider of city services," said Yates in the eight-plus minute video. "To make sure we take care of and protect both our employee base and the residents as much as possible. I can say that these last few weeks have been some of the most challenging that I’ve ever experienced. Very difficult decisions that we’ve had to make and it’s not going to get any easier, I think, in the short term."
Yates told the Twinsburg Bulletin Thursday that the 36 employees represent 20 percent of the city’s 179 full-time employees, adding that some part-time employees will also not be working. He said the layoffs will include some police, fire and wastewater clerical and administrative employees, but those departments will remain fully operational.
Yates said the layoffs are due to a projected 20 to 25 percent reduction in income tax revenue, normally about $22 million annually, because of the pandemic.
"We are completely income tax dependent," said Yates. "None of our general fund operations have any property tax millage associated with it. So when the economy is hit, we feel it from a revenue standpoint."
Yates said impacted employees also include staff in the parks and recreation, engineering and billing departments as well as at the city’s closed fitness and senior centers.
"It varies in every department," he said. "I mean, my executive assistant is also part of this group. There are a number of individuals, probably half the staff of the service department, are part of the group. They’re ranging in every job classification in service, so I have foremen, operators, trades craftsmen, as well as maintenance guys. All part of the layoff group."
He said at least for awhile, residents should not see too many changes in city services.
"From a service standpoint, there will be limited branch chipping and some of the extra services that we do," he said. "We level sidewalks in the city during the summer and those kinds of things. It’s hard to even predict what’s happening a week from now, much less in our summer months, but during this period of time, our service guys will be on basic maintenance operations, cutting grass, maintaining city areas and those kinds of things. So in the short term, there should be no impact in what the residents feel."
Yates said in the video that the employees being laid off have been "gracious and understanding" and in addition to extra help from the federal stimulus package, the city will extend healthcare coverage through May.
He said Thursday that ultimately, it is his goal to restore city operations and bring back the employees.
"Hopefully our businesses bounce back quick, but this has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through, both professionally and personally," he said. "It’s hard to make these decisions. I personally called every employee to notify them of this and just talk with them. It’s tough."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP