Mayor Vincent Gray signed a waiver on Feb. 4, allowing him to be furloughed on various holidays throughout the year. Under the terms, Gray will join 32,000 other District government employees in forgoing pay during scheduled time off in an attempt to cut down on city costs.

Gray’s move comes after the Feb. 1 approval of The Balanced Budget Holiday Furlough Emergency Act of 2011, which requires full and part time government employees to receive unpaid time off on four legal public holidays throughout the year. These holidays include: President’s Day, Emancipation Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. Furloughs can only be implemented when they are required for budgetary reasons and when written notice is given to the affected employee.

Though the District’s Charter prevents the mayor’s salary from being affected, Gray’s signed waiver allows him to participate. Government officials expect to save over $19 million through this move.

“Like other employees, I believe it is only fair that I too share the sacrifice,” Gray said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do. In these challenging times, we all must be willing to share the burden and shoulder the responsibility when public interest demands it.”

Furloughs, as a method of cutting costs, were first introduced by Gray in 2010 while he was chairman of the DC City Council.

While the move affects a bevy of District government employees, some remain exempt, including police, fire and emergency personnel.

Maudine Cooper, District resident and president of the Greater Washington Urban League, said she believes Gray’s decision to participate is exemplary.

“I think it’s commendable that he is leading by example,” Cooper told the AFRO. “I think it’s an excellent idea and I hope to see more like this throughout the years that he’s in office.”

The method is part of a $188 million gap-closing plan passed last December.

Dwight Bowman, the national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said that while furloughs may not have been the ideal option for the city to utilize to cut financial corners, it was implemented for lack of better alternatives.

“We know that we’re all in a tight situation because of the financial dealings that have gone on,” Bowman told the AFRO in a recent interview. “It’s not that we don’t want to support the city and the citizens and keep the services running, it’s just that we’re in a very tight spot right now.”

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor