Denver city employees are taking another unpaid furlough day Monday to offset the cost of the coronavirus-addled economy, which has set the city back $220 million this year and $190 million in the next.
Most city offices will be closed Monday, but Denver Health and Denver International Airport will remain open. Sworn members of the city's sheriff, police and fire departments, as well as other emergency responders, will report for work, and the Denver Elections Division, Denver County Court and all state-operated courts will also stay open. The city's trash, recycling and compost collection services will go uninterrupted.
Mayor Michael Hancock announced in May that city employees were required to take eight unpaid workdays by the end of the year to save the city an estimated $16 million. Staff will also be required to take off the Friday after Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas, along with three other days of their choosing.
Furlough days for city employees will be required next year, too. Hancock’s proposed 2021 budget calls for up to nine unpaid furlough days for some city workers, estimated to save $12 million. Unlike this year, next year’s furlough days will be scheduled on a tier system, requiring the workers who earn the most to take the highest number of furlough days.
The breakdown looks like this:
Six days for those making under $51,999.
Seven days for those making $52,000 to $86,999.
Eight days for those making $87,000 and above.
Nine days for mayoral appointees.
In September, many staffers argued that there is no way to tell someone’s financial stability based on their income, and some said that penalizing senior workers who typically make higher wages was unfair. Others suggested the city create a way for employees to take furlough days for someone else who may need the income more.
“I think it’s important for us all to recognize that furloughs are a tool, a mechanism, to keep from having to lay people off,” Hancock said, adding that mandatory unpaid days off was one of the last options he looked at in an effort to “hold our key nucleus of city employees together.”
As Hancock and his staff have done this year, he pledged to take furlough days next year just like the rest of the city workforce.
This year, Denver's judges and all but one member of the Denver City Council agreed to take the days unpaid, although most will continue working.
Denver District 9 Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, a frequent critic of Hancock, is the only council member who refused, standing firmly on grounds that there is “no budgetary partnership between the Mayor’s office and Council; it is a one-sided relationship with the appearance of reciprocity," she said in an earlier statement. “Standing with city workers means more than just making feel-good, symbolic gestures: They have a right to the truth about our city finances. And simply writing a check back to the General Fund fails to meaningfully address the plight of those who cannot afford to lose ANY days."
The 12 other council members “stand united” with city employees, Councilman Jolon Clark said in May, when he was serving as council president.
“Taking these furlough days helps the City by returning our income for those days, but also demonstrates our support for the dedicated employees who continue work hard through the pandemic and now face mandatory unpaid leave.”