A plan to freeze the wages of Casper employees, among other changes, will save the city about $1,037,000 in its general fund, according to a memo from City Manager Carter Napier.

It will hurt, but it could be worse, Napier said Wednesday.

"It is difficult when you talk about impacting employees, when you talk about things that they're used to," he said.

"But in terms of some of the other options that are out there, and certainly some of the things that other cities and towns have had to do in Wyoming, this appeared to me to be the least impactful to our employees," Napier said.

In the memo released Tuesday, Napier outlined the three changes that affect the general fund, which is most sensitive to sales tax revenue fluctuations:

  • Starting Monday, salaries and wages for all employees and department heads are frozen. This will save the general fund about $500,000 a year.
  • The city will end the program that allows employees to, in effect, sell excess disability time (sick leave) back to the city or convert it to vacation time. Employees with more than 200 hours of disability time will have that reduced to 200 hours. That will save about $220,000 a year. Those who retire with banked disability time will not be able to sell it back to the city. This will save the general fund about $117,000 this fiscal year.
  • Street sweeping services and two employees will be transferred to the city's solid waste division. This will save the general fund about $200,000 a year.

The city's human resources division also is looking at combining time off -- such as paid time off -- with disability leave, Napier said.

These changes for now avoid the need for layoffs and reductions in services, he said.

However, the approximately $1,037,000 in savings to the general fund are still small compared to the approximately $4.5 million of reserves that will need to be borrowed to balance the budget this fiscal year, Napier said in the memo.

There are some rays of hope, including higher-than-anticipated sales tax receipts and a possible bump in tax receipts from the thousands of people who visited Casper for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, he said.

"We still have work to do," Napier said

The city council hired Napier in part to find ways to resolve the budget crisis for now and the 2018-2017 fiscal year budget that will be crafted in the coming months.

"What you're seeing is the culmination of a number of discussions and the boiling down of ideas and everything else to cut costs," he said.

City council will formally approve the changes in the form of a budget amendment probably in a month, he added.

City employees are not happy with the changes, Napier said. "City employees would prefer those changes not occur, and that we find other ways to save money."

These restrictions may be lifted if the revenue picture improves, but that won't be known for a while until there the city's revenue stream becomes sustainable, he said.

"I'm hopeful this is as bad as it gets," Napier said.