The City of Rio Rancho is starting furloughs that affect 15 percent of employees because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

City spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia said 112 employees would have work hours decreased or not be able to work.

Rio Rancho City Hall. File photo.

Employees whose duties were entirely or partially deemed nonessential under state executive orders were put on paid administrative leave for the nonessential portion of their work after the public-health emergency declaration March 11.

“My objective then — which is the same today — was to keep all employees paid for as long as possible,” Acting City Manager Peter Wells wrote in a memo to city staff members.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has extended business closures and stay-at-home orders through April 30.

“There is a high probability that similar limitations will continue through at least early May,” Wells wrote. “As such, it is now clear that municipal government operations will be impacted for a minimum of seven weeks. In addition, due to business closures during this time and unprecedented lack of economic activity, the city’s revenue sources are negatively impacted.”

Because the city couldn’t justify or afford paid administrative leave indefinitely, he continued, it ended at the close of business Friday. To receive some amount of pay through May 1, affected employees can use sick, vacation or comp time; use paid-leave provisions under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act if eligible; be approved for leave without pay; or any combination thereof.

Starting May 2, employees with nonessential jobs will be furloughed until further notice, according to the memo. They’ll maintain their job status and the city will pay the employer and employee portion of health insurance premiums until they can return to work.

The employees will then need to repay their part of the insurance premiums through payroll deductions.

Wells hoped to end the furloughs sometime in May and said every action would be taken to avoid layoffs.

Garcia said impacted employees are from certain departments or divisions at higher levels. As examples, she pointed to 36 affected staff members from libraries; 27 from the Parks, Recreations and Community Services Department, six from the city’s Motor Vehicle Division and 19 school crossing guards.