DA Sullivan, employees reduce hours, take pay cut 


Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2020 6:46:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As courthouses largely remain closed and the state deals with an anticipated shortfall in tax revenue due to ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said every employee at his office, including himself, will be working reduced hours beginning in July to cut costs.

Starting July 6 and lasting until Oct. 2, 84 employees will have their hours reduced by one or two work days per week depending on job duties and responsibilities, Sullivan said. Four part-time employees — an assistant district attorney, an IT specialist and two administrative support positions — will not have their employment renewed beginning July 1; one employee already had their hours reduced prior to July, according to Sullivan. The office has 85 employees in total; Sullivan also decided not to fill two vacant positions.

“By each employee taking reduced hours we have avoided the need to lay off any of our full-time employees,” Sullivan said in an email. “I appreciate the shared sacrifice of our employees in order to save the jobs of their fellow colleagues.”

Sullivan, whose salary was $180,907 in 2019, said he will be taking a pay cut of $5,876 over the 13-week period. He said his office, which was allocated $7,801,536 this fiscal year, expects to save $350,000 with the cost-saving measures over the same 13-week period. Salary is the largest share of the office’s budget. In fiscal year 2018, for example, 71% of the office’s $6,464,587 budget went toward wages and salaries.

Sullivan said the cuts came amid expectations that his office will “be significantly impacted by the decline in state revenues,” as well as from the Trial Court being “substantially closed” during the summer. The state Department of Revenue said earlier this month that it collected $1.738 billion in tax revenue during May — $262 million or 13.1% less than the actual collections in the previous May.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit think tank, also said in May that FY21 tax revenues in the state were projected to be $6 billion less than anticipated, casting uncertainty on what the state’s next operating budget will look like.

Courthouses have been closed to the public since March, but have started to handle emergency and non-emergency matters virtually; emergency matters that can’t be resolved virtually are taken care of in person. All jury trials have been postponed until at least Sept. 8.

The hourly cuts are expected to last until October as Sullivan said he anticipates the state budget should be finalized by then, adding that courts may also be back to a normal schedule. Employees affected by the cuts will have the option to apply for unemployment benefits to partially offset loss of earnings, Sullivan said.

The pandemic has squeezed businesses and resulted in loss of work for millions of people across the country. The U.S. Department of Labor found 20,985,000 people were unemployed, for a rate of 13.3% in May. Massachusetts in the same time period had 576,100 unemployed for an unemployment rate of 16.3%.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Monday that her staff of more than 300 will have to take furloughs in July, citing declining tax revenues, according to a report in the Boston Herald. Sullivan said the reduction of hours will hopefully “avoid a significant budget shortfall in FY 21 and the separation of essential workers.”

“A separated employee would lose all employee benefits,” Sullivan said. “All employees will retain their employee benefits, to include health insurance, during period of reduced hours.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.
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