City of Littleton furloughs 58 employees

Staff from museum, library, immigrant center on unpaid leave through June

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The City of Littleton will furlough 58 employees through late June, part of efforts to curtail the city budget as tax revenue declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The furloughs will come from departments including Bemis Library, the Littleton Museum, the Littleton Immigrant Resources Center and two bus services for seniors, according to a news release.

“Unfortunately, we have reached a time where we have no choice but to make adjustments to our workforce as we struggle with difficult decisions to ensure the financial and long-term health of the city,” City Manager Mark Relph said in a statement.

The furloughs will begin April 25 and are scheduled to continue through June 24. The positions were selected because they are public-facing and cannot be done from home.

A full list of furloughed positions was not immediately available, but they include the drivers of the Omnibus and Shopping Cart, two city-operated buses that take seniors to medical appointments, grocery stores and other errands. The buses have been shut down since mid-March, as their ridership is at high risk of contracting COVID-19, and social distancing is difficult on a small bus.

Other furloughs include historical interpreters at the Littleton Museum, a Smithsonian-accredited facility with two operating 19th-century style farms.

Also on the list were circulation staff at Bemis Library, and staff at the Littleton Immigrant Resources Center, which assists legal immigrants with green cards as they pursue American citizenship.

Furloughed staff can use their paid leave time, and will continue to receive benefits during the furlough. The staff will be eligible for unemployment.

It's too soon to say what further cuts will need to be made, said city spokeswoman Kelli Narde. The city will know more once tax revenue for March is tabulated on May 1, she said.

Narde said she “wouldn't bet against” further furloughs and possible layoffs. The city has about 350 employees, Narde said, though the number fluctuates when including seasonal employees like groundskeepers.

The city is expecting a decline of about 25% in sales tax revenue over the next two fiscal quarters, said city finance director Tiffany Hooten at an April 14 study session.

The city has already cut $1.1 million from the budget through a combination of a hiring freeze, a suspension of training, education and tuition reimbursement for city staff, a hold on professional and consulting projects, a postponement of capital construction projects, and reductions in parts, supplies, printing and maintenance.

Narde called the move unprecedented in her 29 years with the city.

“Facilities like the museum and library, those are the heart and soul of the city because of the people who work there,” Narde said. “This is really heartbreaking.”

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