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County starts hiring freeze
By DAVID DECAMP
Published May 31, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - For now, you won't see any HELP WANTED signs at Pasco County government offices.
With state lawmakers threatening to cut property taxes, the county began a hiring freeze this week. The ban will last at least until the Legislature completes its special session June 22.
Property taxes help pay for the county's general operations. In recent years, new construction and growth in property values have fueled big spending increases in Pasco and other counties. Uncertain how deep the Legislature-imposed cuts could be, county officials said the freeze seemed a prudent step.
The freeze affects the work force under County Administrator John Gallagher and the County Commission, but not employees of the sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections or clerk of courts.
The county administration employs about 2, 150, although about 100 of those positions are vacant, said personnel director Barbara DeSimone.
Any new hires will have to be justified to Gallagher for approval. For now, only an opening for an engineer is posted.
Here's the good news, at least until legislators finish their work:
"At this point, there are no layoffs, " DeSimone said Wednesday.
The freeze comes as Pasco officials gear up for the annual wrestling over the budget. The constitutional officers are supposed to submit budget proposals Friday, and Sheriff Bob White has begun lobbying for a spending increase of uncertain amount. White declined to give specifics this week.
The commission, though, has final say on most spending. Last year's budget was a record $1.1-billion, with property taxes making up less than a fifth of it.
But Gallagher has told all department heads to propose spending and hiring for the coming year as though property tax revenue will not increase, budget chief Mike Nurrenbrock said. They also have to think up ways to make cuts, if necessary.
Nurrenbrock declined to say whether the county administration wants the sheriff and other constitutional officers to freeze their hiring.