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City of Boulder Announces Additional Service Changes and Budget Cuts to Address Financial Impacts of COVID-19

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic impacts, today the City of Boulder announced additional staff reductions and adjustments to non-essential projects, programs and services.

In April, Boulder anticipated lost revenues of at least $28 million. To address this budget shortfall 737 city staff were placed on furlough. The latest financial models now anticipate potentially more than $30 million in lost revenues this year due to the impact of the virus on sales taxes and other revenue sources. The city has been working diligently over the past several months to identify cost savings through adjustments to non-essential projects, programs and services and has identified more than $18 million in non-personnel cost savings through those adjustments. Staff will highlight these reductions during a financial update scheduled for the June 9 city council meeting.

To meet the evolving needs of the community and city organization, 84 of the 121 furloughed standard full-time employees have already or will return to work by June 29. The city will extend furloughs for 33 standard employees and 472 temporary employees through Sept. 20; the majority of these employees, while highly valued, are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their position. During this time, the city will continue to pay 100% of benefit eligible employees’ healthcare insurance, for individuals and families, through Sept. 20. 

Effective today the City will lay off 56 standard and fixed-term employees, end temporary roles with an additional 68 employees and furlough an additional four standard employees. 103 staff positions which are currently vacant will remain so through the end of 2020, for an estimated cost savings of $5 million.

Extended City Holiday Closures

In addition to staff reductions, the City has also implemented extended city holiday closures. This measure will result in an estimated budget savings of over $ 1.8 million. With the exception of emergency health and life safety staff, all city staff will have a total of six unpaid days (five full days and two half-days) in 2020:

  • Independence Day extended city closure holiday: July 2
  • Summer weekend extended city closure holiday: Aug. 7
  • Labor Day extended city closure holiday: Sept. 4
  • Fall weekend extended city closure holiday: Oct. 9
  • Thanksgiving extended city closure holiday: Nov. 27
  • Christmas Eve extended city closure holiday: half-day Dec. 24
  • New Year’s Eve extended city closure holiday: half-day Dec. 31

A Racial Equity Rapid Assessment Tool continues to guide budget and service level reductions. The tool incorporates five equity questions when making COVID-19 process, budget, activity and service decisions, to help avoid disproportionate impacts on community members of color. The City recognizes that progress must be swift and acknowledge this is an imperfect tool. The goal is to minimize harmful impacts as much as possible.  With that in mind, while non-whites compose 14% of city employees 9.5% were impacted by a layoff or termination and while 86% of city employees identify as white, 90.5% of those employees impacted by a layoff or termination. More information of the specific breakdown of demographics is available on the city’s Racial Equity webpage.

“It is heartbreaking that the financial realities of the coronavirus pandemic have forced us to cut so deeply,” said City Manager Jane Brautigam. “These painful decisions were made as a last resort after exploring all other options; in making them, careful consideration was taken to prioritize public safety, essential services, basic needs of the community, and minimize impact to standard employees.”

As the city and businesses gradually and carefully reopen over the coming months Brautigam said the city will learn more about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and what recovery will look like. She along with city staff will continuously evaluate the financial and personnel impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional changes may need to be made before Sept 20.

Boulder may see a more significant decline in sales and use tax revenue than some other Front Range communities during the stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders because of impacts to major economic drivers such as the closure of the University of Colorado Boulder campus, abrupt halt of tourism and cancellation of large community events.  In order to achieve cost savings to close the anticipated revenue gap, city staff will highlight additional reductions of more than $18 million in non-personnel expenses at the June 9 city council meeting.

City employees that were impacted by the layoffs and furloughs were notified on June 1 and may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Through the CARES Act, the federal government is providing an additional $600 (weekly) in addition to regular unemployment insurance benefits. State unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 benefit are available at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/covid-19-workers.

Published:June 1, 2020

Media Contact:

Shannon Aulabaugh, Media Relations, 720-484-9903