Columbus City Council approves four-day workweek, passes pay raise for hourly employees

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Just over a year after moving to a five-day workweek, the city of Columbus will be moving back to a four-day work schedule.

The city council made the decision Tuesday night and is something city workers have been hoping for.

“When I came on board as mayor and started going through the budgeting process, every department that I worked with asked if this could come back,” says Mayor Keith Gaskin.

The city previously operated on a four-day work schedule from 2008 to August of 2020 but concerns were raised that having the offices closed on Fridays limited services to residents.

But with options like online bill payment available on the city website, some of those concerns have been addressed.

“Click on ‘court division’ and you’ll have the link to pay online,” court administrator Wendy Blunt says.

Employee morale was one factor in the council’s decision, but it wasn’t the only one.

“The city will actually be able to save money in a four-day workweek,” Mayor Gaskin says. “Cutting down on electric bills, saving fuel and those kinds of things.”

Columbus human resources director Pat Mitchell believes the transition back will be a smooth one.

“We’ve only been away from it for a year,” she says. “(Switching to five days), that was a transition. A lot of employees did not like having to come in five days.”

Mayor Gaskin says there will also be plans for addressing special situations with departments like public works or building permits.

“During this time, we will be looking at every potential area where there might be an inconvenience to a citizen because the officers won’t be open on that Friday,” he says.

That schedule goes into effect the first full week of December.

“We truly believe that we can have this policy in place for our employees and still be a well-run city government,” the mayor says.

Mayor Gaskin says all the department heads have turned in information to city hall about how their offices will function moving forward and will be posting those updates on social media.

In more good news for city workers, the city council also approved a 75-cent pay increase for hourly employees.

Mayor Gaskin was hoping to have the pay increase take effect at the beginning of the budgeting process, but the city had to delay it after an error revealed a major deficit. Ward 4 Councilman Pierre Beard made the proposal for the raise and agrees with the mayor that this should motivate the city to correct their other financial issues so that they can offer more raises in the future.

“We felt like it was time to bring our employees up to at least a halfway decent livable wage, which is still extremely low,” he says. “With the new upcoming budgeting process, we’re going to try to get them up to at least $12.”

Councilman Beard says he does not expect the raise to impact the current budget too much because of the current city revenue and the reserve funding set aside for minor adjustments like this one.

“Like I stated at the meeting, we have to figure out ways to bring revenue into the city so we can support these pay raises,” he says.

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