In the middle of Boston’s annual budget process and facing a number of economic questions posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Monday that neither furloughs nor layoffs are on the immediate horizon for city employees.
Speaking at a Monday news conference at City Hall, Walsh said “As of now, we are not considering furloughs or layoffs for city workers.”
He noted that the city entered the pandemic in a strong fiscal position and that local authorities will continue to monitor the financial realities of the public health crisis and make budget adjustments if necessary. The city employs more than 18,000 people across 60-plus departments.
The pandemic is battering the economy, with millions of Americans filing for jobless aid in what has been called the worst string of US layoffs on record. On Monday, Walsh said Boston is “not at the point where we can begin to reopen.”
Last month, Walsh proposed a $3.65 billion budget for the next fiscal year, calling for a 4.4 percent budgetary bump that will include increased funding for education, housing, and public health.
City Councilor Kenzie Bok, who chairs the council’s Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, said Monday she did not expect to see revenue reductions that would cause layoffs or furloughs in the next year.
“We’re in a moment where we need our city workforce more than ever,” she said.
Bok said that while there are a number of budget questions, including how far certain revenues, such as taxes on restaurant meals and hotel stays, will fall and what state funding for the city will look like, the fact that the city relies heavily on property taxes currently offers Boston some fiscal insulation from the ongoing economic troubles for fiscal 2021, which starts July 1.
The current downturn, however, could have a “really big effect” on the budget for fiscal 2022, she said. That places even more importance on ensuring this year’s budget is a responsible one, according to Bok.
The council is in the middle of the budget process, with Ways and Means Committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week.
The city has already received $120 million from a federal coronavirus relief fund and the City Council is expected to formally accept that funding later this week. The funding is to be used for necessary expenses brought on by the emergency that were not in the previous budget, said Bok.
“It has to be new and it has to be necessary,” said Bok of what the funding can be used for.
Walsh, meanwhile, pushed for more federal funding to states and cities to help dull the economic blow of coronavirus.
“It will allow cities across the country, including Boston, to continue our robust response on the ground to COVID-19,” he said.
Boston topped 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday, a figure that includes 442 deaths.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.