A Message From City Manager Jessi Bon On Finances and Layoffs

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Apr 29, 2020 - A Message From City Manager Jessi Bon:

Mercer Island Community,

Today, I regrettably share with the Mercer Island community that I have implemented a number of workforce reductions in response to revenue shortfalls resulting from the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This unparalleled situation has led to very difficult and painful actions that deeply affect staff and residents alike. The decisions I’ve made over these past two months are choices no City Manager ever wants to face.

Traditional sources of budgeted revenue such as rental fees, programming fees, sales tax, as well as Thrift Shop sales, have slowed or completely vanished. At this time, our best forecasting indicates that the City will end the year with a deficit of approximately $4.3 million in the General Fund and $1.3 million in the YFS Fund. The impacts of these losses are expected to extend into 2021. This situation, coupled with the unexpected expense of managing a lengthy emergency response and an already uncertain budget forecast, required immediate action.

I recently provided a detailed memo to the City Council describing the current financial projections and workforce reductions (available here). To address the revenue shortfalls, I made the decision to lay off over 20 employees from the Youth and Family Services Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, and the Facilities Division, and furlough another 11. These decisions unfortunately come on the heels of a prior round of layoffs at the end of March, in which I made the decision to lay off almost 40 temporary and seasonal staff.

All staff have been, and will continue, searching for any and all potential cost saving options. Just last month we reviewed all open contracts for cancellation options, suspended non-essential project work, ended 2020 travel and training, and turned off the heat and power in unoccupied buildings. All options are on the table. Just as we are looking at all possible cuts, I have also assigned a team to pursue all possible grant and other funding options.

We are truly grateful for the ongoing and generous support of the Youth and Family Services Foundation, and contributions made by residents to the We Love MI campaign for parks and social services.

The Road Ahead

An updated financial forecast will be presented to the City Council at its May 5, 2020 meeting, kicking off a critical public discussion about the road to recovery. I encourage you to watch or listen to the meeting.

In closing, I want to reassure residents that we will indeed get to the other side of this event – together. But as much as I, and I’m sure all of us, wish things would get back to normal, I believe that’s no longer realistic. Instead, we have the opportunity to build our new normal and I ask for your support in that endeavor.

I continue to be incredibly proud of the staff’s professionalism, hard work, and dedication, especially over these past two months of unrelenting demands. And thank you to the community for staying home, looking out for each other, and supporting our local businesses and the City of Mercer Island. I am confident we will get through this together.

Jessi Bon,

Mercer Island City Manager

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