Neall freezes hiring of county workers

September 13, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Anticipating a $15 million cut in state funding next year, County Executive Robert R. Neall has imposed a hiring freeze on all county departments.

In a memo sent to department heads late last week, Mr. Neall said that the freeze covers all merit and contractual positions, exempting only those who have been offered or have accepted a job. Any hiring done during the freeze is subject to Mr. Neall's approval.

The freeze is prompted by county officials' expectations of a 10 percent cut in state funding next year. Gov. William Donald Schaefer said last month that he needs to cut $500 million to balance the state budget, and he was receptive to a proposal by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell that aid to regional governments be slashed by $150 million.

"We're just getting ready," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Neall. "For planning purposes, we're assuming a $15 million cut."

The job freeze follows a voluntary early-retirement program, which was accepted by 149 county employees. The retirement package cost the county $3.28 million, but the expense will be spread out over five years.

The county intends to leave between 50 and 60 of those positions permanently vacant -- at a savings of $2 million a year -- and eventually fill the rest.

H

Mr. Neall has asked department heads to leave as many as

possible of those positions vacant "so that if layoffs come in the future, there will be some vacancies," Ms. Hayman said.

But because most of the retirees were police officers and firefighters, the county has had to do some additional hiring. "Some of them were front-line people," Ms. Hayman said.

Fifty-two public safety employees have been hired, including 30 police officers and 20 firefighters. According to the county personnel department, 55 police officers and 32 firefighters took the early retirement.

Mr. Neall eventually hopes to reduce the county work force by 10 percent, or 430 positions, by the end of his term in December 1994. So far, 167 county positions have been eliminated.

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