Civilian personnel from Cannon Air Force Base could receive a 20 percent pay cut between the end of April and September to combat upcoming fiscal constraints forced by automatic government spending cuts, also known as sequestration, according to a base press release.
Approximately 430 employees may be impacted by an impending administrative furlough, which will require them to take a maximum of 16 hours of unpaid time per 10-day pay period. A civilian hiring freeze may also take place, according to the press release.
“We are articulating the impact this has on our special operations missions, of which, every one of you play an important part,” said base Commander Col. Buck Elton to civilian employees at a meeting earlier this month, according to the press release. “We are going to do everything we can to protect our vital capabilities, but the bottom line is, this is how the Department of Defense and our Air Force are going to implement a significant portion of savings forced by this sequestration.”
The press release says the furlough is designed to help absorb the necessary budget reductions for the 2013 fiscal year.
“We understand that this will have a major financial impact on our civilians, but sequestration is now federal law and we must follow the law,” said Elton, according to the press release.
Military members’ pay structure is exempt from sequestration cuts and will not be impacted.
According to the base’s director of staff, employees will be provided at least a 30-day notification period prior to the implementation of any furlough. The furlough period is expected to run from April 25 through Sept. 30.
If at any time Congress passes a balanced deficit reduction plan that President Barack Obama signs, and as part of that plan sufficient funding to the Department of Defense’s civilian pay accounts is restored, the sequestration could be reversed and the furloughs would end immediately, according to the press release.
Eastern New Mexico University Professor of Economics David Hemley said this potential furlough could spell out trouble for Clovis and Portales.
“The problem is, that’s going to give them (Cannon’s civilian workforce) less income and that’s going to give them less spending,” Hemley said.
Hemley said if the average salary of the 430 employees is $50,000, then with approximately four unpaid days a month, the area can lose out on nearly $350,000 a month after taxes.
“There’s a trickle down impact here, they’re losing it, they’re not spending it, this is going to affect others,” Hemley said. “This is going to hit them in the pocketbook.”
Portales Mayor Sharon King says she knows quite a civilians in Portales who work on base and she’s concerned because she feels times are hard enough as is.
“It would be a devastating thing for those employees,” King said. “How many of them can really afford to do that? It’s going to be a really sad thing for them to go through.”