West York borough council says 'no' to firefighter furlough

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A divided West York Borough Council on Monday twice rebuffed borough manager Shawn Mauck's call to furlough a single employee. And Mauck warned the council's failure to act could result in much deeper cuts as tax revenues have plummeted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ​​​​

Mauck had recommended the furlough of Brad Dunham, a driver who's been working full-time hours for the West York Fire Department.

Mauck said the borough would save about $15,000 from the cut.

"In my opinion, if you don't take advantage of this, you're going to have to look at potentially furloughing additional individuals," Mauck said.

Council President Mary Wagner asked why the borough couldn't just decrease Dunham's hours so he would still be able to work part time, but Mauck said the borough would need the full benefit of eliminating all of those hours, at least temporarily, to help cover costs until revenues start flowing again.

Mauck also said it might be better for Dunham to be able to collect full unemployment benefits instead of a partial benefit while still working reduced hours.

Brad Dunham, a driver with the West York Fire Department, asked the borough council Monday to put him on furlough instead of cutting his hours.

The first vote on whether to furlough Dunham ended in a 3-3 tie, with council members Wayne Leedy, Alan Vandersloot and Regina Scott voting in favor of the cut. Wagner and council members Linda Heiner and Lisa Gross voted to oppose it.

Councilperson Mildred Tavarez was absent, so Mayor Bruce Vick broke the tie and voted "no," stating he didn't feel comfortable losing a fire engine driver without knowing how the fire department would still provide 24-hour coverage to the borough.

After the motion failed, Mauck said the borough does have a plan for coverage and asked the council to consider reducing Dunham to 20 hours a week, but as Wagner prepared to vote on that proposal, West York Police Chief Matt Millsaps asked the council if Dunham could speak to how reduced hours would impact him versus a furlough.

"If I'm going to have to get cut one way or another, to cut my hours to 20 hours a week is going to cause an additional financial hardship on my part at this point, as opposed to a furlough," Dunham said.

Dunham said he would prefer a furlough if it meant he would be eligible for unemployment.

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Wagner asked who would fill Dunham's hours if he were furloughed, and Mauck said the department would use the remaining part-time drivers and that there would be no double coverage on any shifts.

The council took a second vote on the furlough and again voted 3-3, with the mayor breaking the tie with a no vote.

"Without seeing an actual plan utilizing part-timers and volunteers in place, to make sure that the coverage is still there for the borough residents, I would continue to say no," Vick said.

The council took no further action on the furlough.

Bruce Vick was appointed West York mayor by council at a Monday, Feb. 26 meeting (Photo courtesy of Bruce Vick).

Amid layoffs, business closures and furloughs caused by COVID-19 mitigation efforts, municipal real estate taxes and other revenue has slowed almost to a halt, Mauck has said.

West York is about $275,000 behind its projected tax revenue for 2020 and about $68,000 behind its 2020 trash bill collections, according a recent report Mauck presented to the council.

Mayor Vick, who, according to public records owes the borough $6,527 in trash collection payments dating back to 2012, declined further to comment Monday.

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