Opa-locka city employees will soon be relieved from taking furlough days thanks to a resolution approved by the City Commission at their March 26 meeting.
The resolution took effect on April 1, and the city hopes to have the furlough days phased out within the next month, said Assistant City Manager David Chiverton.
“Anybody that was supposed to take them would take them, for the most part they’re hoping to be done by then,” Chiverton said.
The monthly furlough days — mandatory, unpaid days off — were initially suggested by City Manager Kelvin Baker last year as one of many efforts to help get the city out of a $2.57 million budget gap.
"Cuts in employee positions and benefits are not popular. However, at this time, we cannot responsibly take any option off of the table,” wrote Baker in his budget message last year.
In January, the commission also debated a hiring freeze for any non-police personnel, but that resolution was later deferred.
The city’s health insurance policy has also been a cause for concern for both city commissioners and staff, as employees have expressed frustration with the costs of deductibles under the city’s plan.
The commission passed a resolution to explore a loan program to assist employees with paying for out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Commissioner Timothy Holmes sponsored the resolution after saying that he’s heard from employees who have had to delay operations and procedures because of deductible costs.
“All I’m trying to do is make it fair and make it safe for any of our employees that have to go to the hospital, have to have an operation, or have to have a baby and they don’t have the money,” Holmes said at the meeting.
Some commissioners initially expressed concerns over how the city, which still faces financial concerns, would be able to afford the program. Chiverton says the plan is to reach out to other partners and that funding won’t “necessarily come from the city’s budget.”
“There are business and the partnerships that support these kinds of efforts and we want to look to see what’s the best process and not put the city in any financial hardship,” Chiverton said.