Westport keeps town staff intact despite coronavirus pandemic
WESTPORT — While neighboring municipalities have been forced to lay off staff because of the coronavirus pandemic’s financial effects, Westport has not done so.
“We’ve had discussions, but we fortunately don’t feel the need to do that,” said Sara Harris, operations director for the town.
In both cases, officials for the towns said employees who could not work from home were laid off.
But Harris said Westport has been fortunate in that, over the years, the town has maintained a low mill rate as well as looked at efficiency in employee positions.
“The Board of Finance, the RTM, the selectman’s office and the administration has really kept a very diligent eye on keeping the town’s finances low and taking a hard look at positions,” Harris said. “We’re pretty lean as it stands.”
The town only has a handful of part-time positions, she said, and they are still needed. For now, she said, the administration is not looking to cut the positions.
“We’re fortunate we haven’t had to do that yet,” Harris said.
Town employees required to be in the office are currently working on a staggered shift, she said, while others are working from home.
“Town hall is at a lower occupancy rate right now than it would be under any other circumstance,” Harris said.
The transition has been made easier because the staff has been working over the years to push a lot of the town’s work online, she said.
“We have activities that can still be done remotely and we’re all connected,” Harris said. “We’re finding a lot of efficiencies in this experience.”
The pandemic measures now in place have also helped the town in planning ahead for when there may be a re-opening, she said.
“We think about what do we really need to be doing as we reopen now that we found out how much more efficiently we can work,” she said.
Harris said the administration will continue to review how employees work and the budget as they prepare for any financial fall-out from the crisis.
“We’re thankful the Board of Finance approved our budget as is for next year,” she said. “But we don’t know what the summer will hold so we’ll be keeping a very watchful eye over our expenses and our revenues.”