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Travis County Commissioners back hiring freeze

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court effectively voted to immediately enact a voluntary hiring freeze for non-essential county jobs. All elected and appointed officials were asked to freeze all unfilled positions and evaluate which positions were non-essential. According to Sam Biscoe, “non-essential means, basically, you can do without the position and still meet your mandatory and discretionary duties and responsibilities for Travis County.” The freeze comes on the heels of the year’s second revenue projection and fed fears that 2011 will be a much tougher year than 2010.

 

Rodney Rhoades, Director of the Planning and Budgeting Office, told In Fact Daily that the county does not believe it has the authority to require elected officials to freeze their hiring. Rhoades said the PBO is “working on a reporting process that we will give to the commissioners court either bi-weekly or weekly. It will give them an update on which positions are currently vacant and those positions that have been filled since the request went out.” This process will allow the court to monitor departmental behavior. The Sheriff’s Department has been operating under a hiring freeze since May 20.

 

County Auditor Susan Spataro’s latest revenue projections show a 3 percent increase over the effective tax rate for the general fund, an increase of $800,000. However, she also projects a loss of $6.5 million for the Roads and Bridges fund due to a decrease in new automotive registrations.

 

The FY09 budget also takes into account $4.6 million in budget cuts from all county departments – who were required to shave 5 percent off of this year’s spending. All of those cuts amounted to $19 million. PBO opted not to take the entirety of those cuts.

 

Perhaps the largest factor impacting the FY10 budget is the projections for 2011. Rhoades said $4 million was being set aside in 2010 as an “Economic Downturn Reserve,” which should help alleviate a steep drop off in property taxes. Rhoades said he expects $2.8 billion of new construction in 2010, while 2011 may have $1.8 billion. “We are anticipating about a $10 million revenue decrease before we even get started with the budget process,” Rhoades told In Fact Daily.

 

Rhoades said the budget reflects the priorities set out by the commissioners to minimize the loss of services or jobs. He conceded that Travis County, like nearly every governmental entity across the country, would not be able to add bonus pay or raises.

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