Morro Bay hit hard as COVID-19 keeps tourists at home

Posted at 6:20 PM, May 04, 2020

Cities across the nation have been forced to furlough, layoff employees and make budget cuts because of the pandemic.

The City of Morro Bay relies on tourism to generate 24% of the general fund revenues but now it's making changes due to the lack of visitors.

"You can look up and down and it's very quiet during the week here and the weekends, it gets a few people here," said George League, Owner of Great American Fish Company.

The usually crowded seaside town is more like a ghost town now-a-days. Besides a line outside some take out spots and fish markets like Giovanni's, there's a major lack of foot traffic in Morro Bay.

"We're a tourist town. We depend on people being able to roam freely and right now, that's not allowed so the cities like ours are going to be hit the hardest," said Scott Collins, Morro Bay City Manager.

The city has decided to take action to make up for the estimated $3,000,000 in lost revenue from March to June and another $5,000,000 anticipated next fiscal year.

"About 90% of our employees are currently operating under at least a 5% pay reduction," Collins explained.

The Morro Bay Police Officers Association and other positions like office assistants, maintenance and utility workers, among others, are getting those cuts.

The city says it's working with the fire association as their contract doesn't run out until the end of June.

The city has also laid off more than 70 recreational employees which are part time or temporary positions.

A couple weeks ago, the city council waived their stipends and the city manager's department took an 8% cut.

"We expect this to be a 2 to 3 year impact," Collins said. "I mean the economy has been shut down for a month a half."

A survey by the League of California Cities found 9 out of 10 cities are looking at layoffs and furloughs or service reductions.

For the City of Morro Bay, it's a four pillar approach.

"It's not just taking pay cuts. It's not enough. It's also looking at our operations, use of emergency reserves and assistance from outside the city to help us survive and ultimately thrive," Collins said.

To generate more funds in the near future, the city says it's also considering paid parking, the sale or lease of city owned property, and RV camping.

The Morro Bay Police Officers Association released this statement to KSBY:

The city came to the POA (and other union groups) due to the cities current financial crisis. As a tourist destination city, COVID has hit the MB economy especially hard. It was presented to the POA that there would be cutbacks in the form of salary concessions and/or layoffs. When presented with the economic forecast, it looked pretty bleak and we realized it wasn't an option.

The POA is concerned because MBPD is one of the lowest paid agencies in the region which has caused significant turnover and could further complicate recruiting and retention to maintain adequate staffing levels. Our primary concern is for the safety of our community and we don't believe that cutting back in the area of public safety during these very trying times is a good idea. Morro Bay officers are out there everyday doing everything we can to keep this community safe.