By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
In a cost-saving move, the city of Morris on Monday cut the work hours of nine full-time employees.
City Clerk Jessica Robb said that before the cuts, the city was paying $15-17,000 in payroll every month. It will now be paying about $11,000 every month.
The city will continue to pay employees’ insurance benefits, which totals about $9,000 every month.
A big reason for the cuts, according to Mayor Joe Pylant, is that the city currently has a $50,000 deficit. Pylant said the debt was in place when the current administration came into office. He did not want to take out a loan for payroll purposes, thus launching the city deeper into debt.
The city council discussed two proposals. One would slice employee payroll by $3,783.50 a month, and the other proposal cut payroll by $1,326.34. The city council chose the less severe cuts, which affect the police department, city hall, the street department and the senior center.
In city hall, the magistrate will work 36 hours a week. The city clerk will work 32 hours a week, Monday through Thursday, meaning certain business will only be conducted on those days, such as getting business licenses, permits and inspections.
City hall will be open until noon on Fridays, when citizens will be able to get yard sale permits, pay tickets and pay for rental on the senior center.
In the police department, officers will no longer work seven 12-hour shifts in each pay period, giving them 84 hours. Their shifts will be cut to 80 hours per pay period, eliminating all overtime.
In addition, officers will no longer be allowed to take police cars home with them. Pylant said that would save the city money on fuel and vehicle maintenance, since officers live throughout Jefferson County. The city will pay for mileage for officers to drive from home to work if they are called in for police business on their off days.
Also in the police department, the city eliminated the department’s two canines. Police Chief Mike Nazarchyk said the dogs will be returned to K9 Specialty Services of Alabama. Michael Morris is the city’s canine officer.
The care of the two dogs costs the city $4,135.50 a year.
Despite all of the cuts, Nazarchyk said the city will still have adequate police coverage.
“We will continue to have 24/7 police protection if we remain fully staffed,” he said.
The city has six full-time and two part-time police officers.
Part-time employees are not affected by the budget cuts.
Police dispatchers will also not have their hours cut. There are three full-time and two part-time dispatchers.
In other departments, the senior center and street department employees will each work 36 hours a week.
Pylant said the cuts are not permanent. The city will look at the budget again at the beginning of 2014 to determine if full-time hours can be reinstated.
He added that the city council did not make the decision lightly to cut employees’ pay.
“This is their livelihood. You don’t want to touch that, but the town had to do something. I’ve got to do what’s right for the town,” he said. “As we get more commercial growth, we hope to bring everybody’s pay back up.”
A Subway restaurant is under construction near the Shell gas station on U.S. Hwy. 31 and Morris-Majestic Road. Pylant said the opening date has not been announced, but he said sales tax revenue from that business will help the town.
Through June, the city in 2013 had collected almost $301,000 in sales taxes and business licenses fees, as well as more than $263,000 from city hall deposits and senior center rentals.
Note: This version corrects the days that city hall are open and incorrect payroll information in the original article.