Furlough days cut to 6, but city leaders remain concerned
Whitehall officials say they are naturally pleased that the federal government has reduced furlough days at Defense Supply Center Columbus by more than two-thirds, but they remain concerned about the long-term effects of the furloughs that ended Aug. 16.
"We are happy and relieved (about the reduced furloughs)," Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.
She said she remains concerned, however, about lingering effects related to the furloughs that already have been implemented and the likely apprehension of employees to quickly return to normal spending habits.
The city of Whitehall derives 65 percent of its annual income tax from the roughly 9,000 civilian and military employees at DSCC. Included within that count are about 3,000 employees of Defense Finance and Accounting Services, about 3,000 employees of Defense Logistics Agency, Land and Marine, and about 3,000 other employees. In all, DSCC houses 22 installations.
In addition to the income-tax revenues from DSCC employees, Whitehall also counts on those employees spending money at area restaurants and retail stores, and city officials remain concerned that those figures might remain soft.
"I don't think (DSCC employees) have their full confidence back yet," Maggard said, adding that decreases in spending at area restaurants and stores already is evident since furloughs were announced in February, just prior to a March 1 deadline for Congress to agree to a budget.
No agreement was reached, and "sequestration" -- a set of automatic spending cuts that began after no alternative plan was reached -- went into effect.
Federal employees were to be furloughed and those at DSCC initially were informed of 22 furlough days to be served one day a week. In May, the number of furlough days was reduced to 11 before any furloughs at DSCC had been implemented.
Furloughs at DSCC began in mid-July, but on Aug. 8 the U.S. Department of Defense announced the number of furlough days would be cut to six.
"Congress allowed the Department of Defense to shift some funds and to use funds in different expenses," said John Foreman, a spokesman for DSCC.
That fund shift allowed for the further reduction of furlough days at the Whitehall base, he said.
The reduction means a significantly less painful punch to Whitehall's income-tax revenue and operating budget, according to city auditor Dan Miller.
Miller had estimated a loss of nearly $1.5 million if employees had been furloughed for the full 22 days.
The six-day furlough still will result in a loss of about $250,000 of income-tax revenue, he said.
Last year, the city's income-tax revenue totaled $21.1 million.
"We will continue to look for ways to reduce our spending," Miller said, but some of the loss will be compensated for via borrowing against the city's cash reserve carried over from previous years' budget surpluses.