Metro Parks Tacoma issued furlough notices to 85 staff members on Tuesday due to the effects of the extended shutdown of sites and programs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Park District projects losing as much as $13 million over six months in fees and sales and property taxes. Even after the Governor eventually lifts the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order as well as other restrictions on social gathering, the financial impact of this crisis will have a lasting impact on Metro Parks operations well into the summer and beyond.
“It is heartbreaking to furlough staff whose unwavering passion helps our agency operate at the highest levels,” Executive Director Shon Sylvia shared in response to the difficult decision. “After extensive research into state and federal assistance, this furlough plan is designed to preserve income and benefits while allowing us to keep enough staff on hand to manage essential functions during the closures. We will get through this, and our talented staff will return to do great work for the community.”
Besides notifying the 85 non-union staff members on Tuesday, the Park District also initiated collective bargaining with IUOE Local 302 over a request to furlough 64 members of the union. If the union agrees, that would bring the total number of furloughed staff to 149.
The furloughs follow the April 1 layoff of approximately 520 part-time employees. Besides the furloughs and layoffs, Metro Parks also is addressing its budget shortfall by reducing non-essential utilities, tapping emergency funding from District reserves, leaving vacancies unfilled, deferring or reducing contracts for service, and reducing pay for executives and senior managers. These efforts combined are projected to save $7.5 million, just over half of the estimated revenue shortfall.
The furlough notices identify an anticipated return-to-work date of June 30. However, Metro Parks leaders hope to recall some employees to active service in batches before that date as they determine what levels of operations can be supported this summer.
“There are many uncertainties at this point, so we are not in a position yet to know the timing for re-opening facilities and restarting programs,” Executive Director Sylvia added. “That’s why we expect the duration of furloughs will vary, depending on circumstances.”
Metro Parks operates a vast network of destinations and experiences, including Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Meadow Park Golf Course, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, community centers, pools, spraygrounds, parks, hundreds of recreation programs, and more. District leaders are working with staff to continue to manage essential functions, including animal care, building systems, and basic park operations and maintenance.Print This Post