Possible Furloughs for Wilkes-Barre Employees

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WILKES-BARRE -- Calling it “the worst financial situation in the city's history,” the mayor of Wilkes-Barre is asking his city employees to take some unpaid time off from work.

A letter sent from Mayor Tom Leighton to the employees of Wilkes-Barre spells out the furlough plan. In it, the mayor is asking for volunteers to stop working for six weeks.

Leighton wants volunteers for now, but in this letter he said he hasn't ruled out mandatory furloughs if city finances don't improve by the end of the year.

About 300 people work for the city of Wilkes-Barre and city officials said this offer is for all city employees, including the police and fire departments.

If they don't get enough volunteers, city officials also said mandatory furloughs could affect every department.

Furloughs would be from November 18 to the end of the year.

The city can refuse a furlough if it could possibly impact community services or department readiness.

Wilkes-Barre city officials call it the worst financial crisis the city has ever seen. There's a deficit of three to four million dollars, and the city must make up the shortfall by the end of the year.

"It`s the revenue side that`s been really draining. Not only this year, but the past nine years I`ve been mayor the revenue has always been slow keeping up with the expenditure side of the government," said Mayor Leighton.

City employees didn't want to go on camera, and efforts to reach a spokesperson from one of the unions were unsuccessful.

Not everyone agrees with the mayor's plan, like Wilkes-Barre resident Eddie Bell.

"I think it`s a total joke. If he wants to cut the spending down and save that much money he should start by taking the pay cut himself first. Then maybe just maybe it will work, other than that forget it," said Bell.

Others said they don`t mind the furloughs as long as it does not affect public safety.

"The mayor has to do what the mayor has to do for the better of the city and if that`s what has to be done then go for it," said Roseann Smith of WIlkes-Barre.

The mayor said any employees who volunteer to be furloughed will continue to receive health insurance.