Hiring freeze, spending restrictions enacted to combat revenue loss

Fran Brownell
City of Pratt will now evaluate any expenditures larger for more than $100 for a focus on understanding department needs during a time of lost revenue due to COVID-19 impact.

Pratt City Manager Bruce Pinkall outlined a COVID-19 Plan of Action to city commissioners that included a hiring freeze and curtailed spending to offset a projected $825,000 loss of revenue from city sales tax, guest tax and possible decline in property values.

The proposed action plan was emailed to all five city commissioners Tuesday, April 7, following the Monday regular commission meeting, held remotely via Zoom.

As of Monday, April 6, a hiring freeze has been put in place for all departments, for both permanent and temporary employees, and city expenditures of more than $100.00 will be evaluated by Pinkall and City Finance Director Diana Garten.

“This is not to limit department operations, but rather to improve communication and understanding of the processes and needs of our departments,” Pinkall said.

The plan focuses on “Essential” and “Non-Essential” services which are categorized in the report.

Essential services are Enforcement, Finance Department, Electric Distribution, Power Plant, Water and Wastewater Departments, Billing and Utilities, City Commission, City Attorney and Inspection and Zoning.

Recreation, Parks, Cemetery and Streets fall under the Non-Essential category.

“The Non-Essential Departments will be encouraged to work together to accomplish the duties and activities required to still provide the Quality of Life expected by the citizens of our community,” Pinkall states in the report. “Essential employees may be asked to assist as well in maintaining these areas and services.”

Pinkall projects the loss of revenue at $425,000 in the event of a 20% decline in city sales tax; $85,000 in the event of a 20% decline in guest tax; and $325,00 in the event of a 15% decline in property values.

Pinkall also states goals he incorporated into his COVID-19 Action Plan.

Goal 1: Instill trust in the employees that we have this situation under control.

Goal 2: Maintain 100% of our employees for the month of April at their current full-time salary.

Goal 3: Manage the City of Pratt budget in a manner that will allow us to remain operating for the remainder of Calendar Year 2020.

Goal 4: Establish positive support of the community by being transparent in our decisions, expenditures, services and communication.

“Together we will get through this,” Pinkall concludes the report.

“This is a very logical and practical plan,” Commissioner Meyer said in a phone interview. “It’s easy to implement and will have minimal or no changes in essential services necessary for operation the city.”