Biloxi council votes to furlough employees

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX ) - Cuts are coming to the paychecks of Biloxi city employees. The Biloxi City Council approved six furlough days this year for city employees during a special meeting Tuesday morning.

At first, the motion was shot down in a three to four vote. But, eventually, council members in favor of furloughs were able to get one more vote on board. They made the argument that the six day furloughs should be pushed through to avoid more drastic, money saving measures.

"From talking to different directors, I've been led to believe that [furloughs] are what the employee would prefer to a reduction in force," said Ward 3 Council Member Lucy Denton.

Denton and fellow council members Clark Griffith, Tom Wall and Ed Gemmil voted in favor of furloughs. Bill Stallworth, George Lawrence and David Fayard voted against it.

Under the motion, the furloughs can be stopped, should the city's financial situation improve.  That was little relief to the firefighters who had a strong showing at the meeting.

Firefighters organized a small protest prior to the meeting against any additional cuts.  They say the furloughs come on top of cuts already made to their scheduled overtime and longevity pay.  While they say the cuts will be tough, money isn't their only concern.

"It's not the money issue as so much a safety issue. Firefighters have to be on duty to provide safety for the citizens of Biloxi and that is our greatest concern," said Michelle Crowley with the Biloxi Firefighters Association.

Crowley said the furloughs will likely mean less bodies on duty and on trucks.

According to Chief David Roberts, the fire department is mapping out several plans to ensure public safety remains a priority. He said the department is working to have at least one truck at every station. The Chief said, depending on the situation, they might have to send more trucks to fires to have more manpower on the scene.

The furloughs will save the city about $600,000 according to David Staehling, the city's Director of Administration.  It would leave Biloxi's ending balance around $3.5 million.  Staehling said that's about $2 million shy of where the city would like to be.

The council also approved cuts to non-departmental groups like charities and those who have contracts with the city like the Coast Transit Authority. They'll see a total of 20 percent in cuts from the city.

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