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County could freeze hiring

Hall tightens belt to make up for lagging revenues

POSTED: June 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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A slumping economy and soaring fuel prices have inspired in Hall County a pessimistic but cautious outlook for the next fiscal year.

Hall County commissioners recommended a yearlong hiring freeze for open positions among other cuts in a meeting Monday. Starting July 1, hiring for any of the 43 open positions would require approval by the board of commissioners or the county administrator.

The projected savings for cutting the jobs would be $1,843,025 within a year.

"(The numbers) are staggering. And we don’t know which way the economy’s going," Chairman Tom Oliver said.

Quarterly financial reviews also were proposed as a way for the county to track revenues and expenditures every three months, "to reassess where we are," Hall County Finance Director Michaela Thompson said.

Thompson said the county is making the cuts to "err on the side of caution."

With high gas prices and the housing market in a slump, the county has less revenue coming in than usual.

"The economy is driving the need to be conservative in our expenditures. Right now, the fuel, the way that it’s rising, it could cause our budget to be affected by $500,000 to $750,000. So fuel is a big concern," Thompson said. "And with the cost of fuel and groceries, people are definitely spending less because fuel is taking a bigger bite out of their disposable income."

The financial reviews will provide a trial period to see if the vacant positions are necessary. If the department finds an empty position crucial, it can have it approved by the county to be filled.

Charley Nix, director of human resources and interim county administrator, said the 43 vacant jobs are "scattered across the board" in different departments, with the exception of the detention center and the sheriff’s department, which have more openings.

"It’s going to certainly cause them to tighten their belt and manage very prudently. ... But they’re all good at that, and employees usually will rise to the task," Nix said. "There’s nothing unusual about our openings."

Capital expenditures also were cut from the budget. As with staffing, departments will have the chance to present their needs for review.

Cutting all capital expenditures will potentially save more than $4 million.



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