Mark Taylor
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Johnson County Commissioners have extended the county’s hiring restriction policy through 2012.
The county has suspended the hiring of new employees — with the exception of those deemed necessary for the delivery of essential services — since 2009.
Only Hannes Zacharias, county manager, has the authority to make exceptions to the policy.
“The continuation of this process in 2012 allows the county to be more strategic in finding budget savings through attrition and discretionary expenditures,” Zacharias wrote in a memo to the commission.
Commissioner Ed Peterson opposed extending the hiring freeze, and cast the lone dissenting vote.
“We’re one of the largest employers in town,” he said. “I think it’s time we start taking a different look at our role and responsibility. I am not convinced that necessarily means a tax increase. But I think we need to start evaluating our decisions based on the employment in the community.
“It’s the public sector that is declining in employment right now. The private sector is holding it’s own. It is the public sector that now needs to step up.”
Commissioner Ed Eilert disagreed, saying any changes to the hiring restriction policies should be “vetted” during the budget process.
“I think we should continue the process,” he said.
Commissioner Michael Ashcraft added, “We are in difficult times and difficult transitions, something we haven’t had much experience with historically, and I think staff has done a yeoman’s job (with staffing decisions).”
According to Zacharias’ memo, the county’s five-year financial model projects $17 million in spending cuts for 2013 and 2014.
“In order to maintain essential services, it is critical that the county continue to review thoroughly all new hires and all discretionary spending in 2012,” he wrote.