Municipalities have been implementing cost-saving measures in order to keep their councils running properly. Due to COVID-19, the economy has taken a great hit with little revenue circling back to the government. In light of this many have cut back on paychecks for their employees and some have even had to lay off some workers. In Orange Walk town the Mayor, Kevin Bernard, explained that the Town Council has had to cut back on several projects that were set for this year. He went on to say that during this time it is important for the Government to assist municipal bodies, especially during this pandemic.
Kevin Bernard, Mayor of Orange Walk Town: “It is important and I think that I want to implore once more to the Prime Minister that he has to really take a sit back, look at what we’re saying. For example at the municipal level we are talking – we asked for a bank overdraft facility of a $100,000 but we cannot get an overdraft facility if we don’t have a government guarantee and that guarantee is simply to say you know what we are going to support the town councils. We’re also secondly asking for duty free fuel. I believe that the government should be able to offer municipal bodies duty free fuel for at least the remainder of this fiscal year. I know finances is a crunch but we’re not asking them for money we’re asking them to assist in those two things that we believe they can assist with and I know that they may come up with all sorts of excuses. Orange Walk Town Council applied for an overdraft request from through the Ministry of Finance, we got a letter but the letter simply said “Yes we can offer you the approval but we cannot give you the guarantee.”
Mayor Bernard told Love News that just like other municipalities they too have had to cut salaries for their employees.
Kevin Bernard, Mayor of Orange Walk Town: “We’re encouraging tax incentive for property taxes, trying to ask people to come in and pay offering them 25% to encourage people to come in. It has been tough, some people have started to “You know what I’m gonna take advantage of it.” but there are many others, a majority of the people, 90% of the people are holding back because they don’t know what to expect. In terms of other major infrastructure works that we would want to do and we had already planned in line we have to put a hold on those tings because we cannot invest those monies and then later on we don’t have the money to sustain our employees. Our priority is our employees, we’re trying to keep as much of our employees in terms of employment. We have been able to for the past two weeks maintained a 75% salary on staffing. Just today I spoke to my administrator today again and I said “We need to come up with an analysis.” if we are to continue under this strict measure and stringent situation then we may need to look at cutting down on salaries and whether that will be that we cut down 25% across the board again and have that be your permanent salary so that then people will no longer enjoy the benefit of having what they had you know ? So these are things that we’re doing but I know it’s tough because people have commitments and we have to make sure that they too can provide for their families with at least the basic salary that they are making.”
Mayor Kevin Bernard also stated that only the Sanitation department has been working full time on full pay.