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Augusta to lay off city employees amid coronavirus

The city is forced to furlough and layoff employees due to revenue shortfalls and increased costs associated with the COVID-19 health crisis.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Dozens more layoffs are expected by the end of May for Augusta city employees to make up for revenue losses and increased spending due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Assistant City Manager and Human Resources Director for the City of Augusta Susan Robertson says of the city’s 226 full-time employees, 15 will be laid off on May 27; 17 part-time employees will also be laid off. All the city’s seasonal employees, who help organize events and summer programs, were furloughed at the beginning of March when the pandemic first reached Maine.

Most city facilities in Augusta that are closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic, including the Augusta Civic Center, Lithgow Public Library, and the childcare bureau at Buker Community Center will see a majority of the planned layoffs.

Two furlough days are also planned for nearly all city employees before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Combined, the two furlough days will save the city $50,000, City Manager William Bridgeo said.

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Bridgeo sent a memo to city councilors on Wednesday explaining the planned layoffs.

“We are blessed with a wonderful, dedicated workforce and the steps being taken to be financially responsible are painful ones,” he wrote.

Bidgeo said before the pandemic hit, the Civic Center was on track for a very good year, but with the cancellation of all events and activities, the city now projects the center will be nearly $300,000 in the red of their original budget.

Major General Fund revenues are expected to fall below budgeted estimates, the memo says, which includes excise taxes (currently expected to finish the year at $550,940 below budget), and property tax collections (potentially down $200,000).

Costs associated with COVID-19 make for ‘worrisome’ results, Bidgeo says. The city’s public safety costs were $141,172, and general assistance costs were $136,621. Some of those costs may be eligible for state and federal reimbursement up to 75%, but at this time, Bidgeo says, that is “unclear and unpredictable.”

In addition to the layoffs and furloughs, Bidgeo says the paid administrative leave he previously authorized in March for all city employees who couldn’t work or for whom there was no work will end on Friday, May 1.

“As we implement these necessary measures, I am determined to do it in a considerate and thoughtful manner,” Bidgeo wrote. “[…] We are cognizant that a day will come when we are past this nightmare and will need to call back our experienced and able workforce.”

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

NEWS CENTER Maine Coronavirus Coverage

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