Originally Published: February 21, 2001 7:15 p.m.
PRESCOTT –Rather than celebrating their own birthdays by taking a day off work, Prescott city employees likely will be celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. in the future.
It won't be final until next week, but Prescott City Council members appeared unified Tuesday on the move to officially designate the third Monday in January as a city holiday to honor slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
And that could wipe out the "floating birthday" holiday that city employees have had for years.
In the past, the city has been open for business on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But city employees have long had a day off for their own birthdays. They could take the day off anytime, and city officials said the understanding was that the employees could use the day for the Martin Luther King holiday.
A citizen raised the question this year, however, about why the city does not designate the day as an official holiday.
City Manager Larry Asaro said he later heard from several City Council members about the need to designate a city holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
City employees currently get 10 holidays, including the floating holiday for their birthdays.
If the council agrees to designate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, they would still get 10 holidays, but the floating birthday holiday would disappear. The change would be effective for 2002.
When the council first discussed the matter several weeks ago, Asaro said a one-day holiday represents a $78,000 impact on the city's budget.
By swapping the floating holiday for a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Asaro said the budget impact would be much lighter. Because the city pays overtime for emergency workers who must be on duty on holidays, Asaro said the new holiday would cost the city about $8,000.
"That seems to have the least impact on the budget," Mayor Sam Steiger said about Asaro's plan.
Although he said he would support swapping holidays, Steiger said he would offer "serious resistance" to adding a new holiday to the city's 10.
"Ten holidays a year is enough," he said. "From my discussions with city employees, they don't want to be known as sponges."
The council will vote on the matter at its Feb. 27 meeting, during the consent agenda.
Contact Cindy Barks at 445-8179 ext. 1146, or firstname.lastname@example.org