Manteca taxpayers are paying $442,000 in weekly salaries for general fund employees even if they are no longer working due to the pandemic.
The $442,000 figure is based on 48 percent of the city’s $46 million being dedicated to salaries and overtime.
While the majority of Manteca’s nearly 400 municipal workers that also include sewer, solid waste, and water employees supported by ratepayers as opposed to taxpayers are still working, many are not.
Interim City Manager Miranda Lutzow noted non-essential employees that were furloughed by the city last month in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency orders can’t have pay withheld due to court decisions that invest public workers with “property interest” in their continued employment.
That is based on a ruling involving Skelly versus the State Personnel Board that reinforced what has been law for many years that a permanent, public sector employee has a property right to his or her job, and property cannot be taken by the government without first providing due process.
Furloughing without pay would require the city either to go through a set process that gives employees due process or for bargaining groups to agree to such a move.
Lutzow said in light of President Trump extending social distancing recommendations to the end of April and the strong likelihood Newsom will follow suit given experts say coronavirus cases have yet to peak in California that she will be exploring options in regards to furloughed employees.
Though Lutzow did not elaborate, those options could include taking steps to meet the legal threshold to furlough employees without continuing to pay them if the situation got to that point.
At the same time the employees that are furloughed have to be available for work in order to be paid. If not, they can draw on what vacation and sick leave they have accumulated.
“Obviously essentially employees such as the police and fire departments are working plus solid waste, wastewater, and water,” Lutzow noted.
And while they may not have 40 hours of work for the pay they are continuing to receive, those that can work from home or work in the field — as in the case of building inspectors — and not violate social distancing rules are being assigned tasks.
Some work is being done by finance department employees. Also department heads working with select staff have been doing work on preparing reports for the April 7 council meeting so elected city leaders can provide direction on things such as proposed capital improvement projects.
Lutzow noted community development is continuing the processing of building plans and such that had been submitted before the city hall shut down due to the pandemic. However, no new projects are being accepted at this time.
She also noted the city has reserves it can draw on to meet budget obligations such as payroll even if city revenue drops as is likely due to most taxable sales being derailed for anywhere from six to eight weeks. Luztow said senior management will be monitoring revenue and making adjustments as needed.
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