Mission continues to protect city employees with compensation, benefit extension

Mission city staff said the March 2020 sales tax receipts — which include about two weeks worth of shutdowns — were encouraging. Staff still prepared scenarios for sales tax reductions ranging from 5% to 25% which translates to loss ranging from $260,000 to $1.3 million.

The Mission city council last week approved a motion allowing the city administrator to draft an amendment to the city’s disaster and state of emergency proclamation — which would extend employee compensation and benefits during COVID-19 — and send it for city council approval via email.

Mission met just a few hours after Gov. Laura Kelly announced the extension of the statewide stay-at-home order to May 3. City Administrator Laura Smith recommended the city council amend its disaster and state of emergency proclamation the same night rather than call a special city council meeting. As there was not adequate time to draft an amendment prior to the meeting itself, Smith verbally suggested what a potential amendment might read like, including extending the following:

  • The closure of city facilities through the end of state and county stay-at-home orders, without a specific date so the city council does not have to revisit this portion of the proclamation if there’s additional orders.
  • The recently approved compensation and benefit amendment that “takes care” of city employees during the coronavirus pandemic until May 15, which at the time the city believed would be the end-date for a new county stay-at-home order.

Smith said of the $197,460 two-week payroll, $37,000 of it could be attributed to COVID-19 hours that an employee was not physically doing some type of work, yet was compensated; $16,000 of that COVID-19 hour share comes from part-time employees who work at the community center, she said. This is because it’s difficult to find some type of work for these part-time employees to do while not physically reporting to work, she said.

Overall, Smith said it’s costing the city about $8,500 a week to keep part-time employees whole during the COVID-19 shutdowns. The city council has already committed to $75,800 worth of COVID-19 compensation based on previous votes, and if it continues to compensate employees regardless of schedules through May 15, it will be an additional $56,900, she said. Multiple council members expressed their support for continuing this practice, including Councilmember Trent Boultinghouse.

“I’m also leery of potentially losing some of these folks and the burden of trying to rehire those positions back in normal time,” Boultinghouse said. “Any way we can continue to retain them and keep their talents, through [May] 15 at least, I think would go a long way for our city.”

Councilmember Nick Schlossmacher asked Smith what the city is doing in regards to seasonal workers, such as lifeguards at the Mission Pool. Smith said the city is working on making conditional offers so that if the city pool is able to open up, it is not scrambling to find part-time employees for the pool — which cannot operate without part-time employees.

After Smith verbally suggested amendments to the state of emergency and disaster proclamation, Councilmember Ken Davis asked if the city council could make a provisional motion to let Smith make the proper amendments and send a final version to councilmembers for approval via email. The city council unanimously approved this motion, and Smith told the Shawnee Mission Post the city council ultimately voted to approve the amendment.