Gainesville’s first furlough day for its employees is just around the corner, and the effect of fewer hours on already lightly staffed city departments is yet to be seen.
City Clerk Denise Jordan, for all intents and purposes, works in a one-person department. Technically, the clerk’s office is a division of the city manager’s office, but Jordan’s office is down the hall from the city manager’s office in a world only connected by call forwarding when Jordan gets busy.
Though she gets some help from other employees in the manger’s office, Jordan is solely responsible for putting together agenda packages for all City Council meetings and work sessions, recording the minutes of those meetings and making the resulting changes to the city’s official book of codes.
She also handles all requests for records, manages archival of city document and serves as the city’s elections superintendent.
When the furloughs were announced earlier this month, City Manager Kip Padgett said the furloughs, which continue until June 30, will affect all full-time employees except police officers, firefighters and water and wastewater treatment plant operators, whose jobs require 24-hour staffing, seven days a week.
City officials have chosen two Wednesdays in November and December to close city offices, Nov. 25 and Dec. 23. But beginning in January, all city employees will eliminate eight hours from their work schedules each month, and there will not be a day when city offices are closed, Padgett said.
That system, Padgett said, should reduce the impact of furloughs on city residents, because it will keep city offices from being shut down on any particular day.
Jordan said she does not know if furloughs will create a backlog of Open Records Act requests or needed changes to the city’s code. But she doesn’t plan on it.
"I don’t know," Jordan said. "It typically depends on what we’re receiving and when we’re receiving it. We try to do our best to take care of everything as it comes in as quickly as we can."
But, she said "it means the same for this office that it means for all of the other offices."
City Councilman Bob Hamrick has suggested that, for fairness’ sake, agencies that receive city money should also have to implement furloughs — or at least have further cuts from their city-provided funding.
In the council’s work session Thursday, Hamrick said a measure for furloughs for outside agencies that receive funds from city coffers was only fair. Councilman George Wangemann agreed.
"If we share in the benefits, we share in the pain, too," Wangemann said.
Though she doesn’t know how furloughs will work out for her beginning in January, adapting to the changes, for small divisions of the city like the city clerk’s office will require a shifting of priorities and further efforts to "work smarter," Jordan said.
And Jordan won’t be a one-person department for much longer, which might help matters; a new assistant city clerk will replace Judy Foster, who moved to the Community Development Department, after the Thanksgiving holiday.
But she said the furlough may mean the city clerk’s office will have to rely more on other employees in the manager’s office.
"I definitely think there will be some opportunities where they’ll need to step in and help this division of the city manager’s office," Jordan said. "And they’re always willing to do that. I mean, whenever I ask for help, they usually step up."