King County Council Chair Dow Constantine proposes hiring freeze

From King County Council Chair Dow Constantine‘s office:

Metropolitan King County Council Chair Dow Constantine today called for a County hiring freeze through the end of 2009, a step that could save an estimated $15 million, including approximately $1 million in general fund spending.

“We must cut spending immediately to offset costs for essential ‘lifeboat’ programs that were only granted partial-year funding in this year’s budget,” said Constantine. “Leaving positions vacant will provide funds to be used in next year’s budget, which has already been projected to have a shortfall of almost $50 million.”

Due to the public safety and public health nature of their positions, the proposed freeze would not affect the hiring of personnel in four key areas:

· The King County Sheriff’s Office,
· Corrections officers in county correctional facilities,
· Health care providers in county correctional facilities and county health centers,
· The King County Superior Court, King County District Court, or King County Prosecutor’s Office.

Although exempt from the proposed hiring freeze, the legislation encourages the responsible department heads or separately elected officials operating these agencies to consider suspending the hiring process for administrative positions not directly associated with the provision of public safety or public health services.

A provision is also included to allow hires by the County Executive in cases where the department can show that keeping a position vacant would actually increase costs to the county.

“The Council voted last December to ratify the Executive’s declaration of a budget emergency,” said Constantine. “With tax collections in decline and economic indicators showing more hard times ahead, we need to take immediate, decisive action to protect public services.”

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