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TRUMBULL COUNTY Officials OK freeze on hiring, overtime



Published: Thu, October 21, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The policy affects only a few county departments.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- In recognition of Trumbull County's dire financial forecast, county commissioners unanimously approved a freeze on hiring and overtime from the county's general fund.

However, the measure, introduced by Commissioner Daniel Polivka on Wednesday, has no binding force beyond the limited number of employees directly under commissioners' control.

It comes after months of criticism by the county auditor's office and others that commissioners have neglected to prepare for an estimated $6 million revenue shortfall in 2005. The shortfall is expected to bring the county general fund down to about $32 million and result in layoffs unless a sales-tax increase is imposed.

"I know we have to run the county as efficiently as possible," Polivka said.

Who would be affected

Because commissioners don't have the authority to tell other elected officials how to run their departments, the measure would only affect the general fund departments under their control: namely, maintenance, tax map, building inspection and their own office staff. About 40 of the more than 400 general fund employees work for these departments, records show.

"The commissioners really can only set policy for the departments under them, but it is still a recommendation," county administrator Tony Carson said. "You can't force other departments to follow the initiative of the commissioners."

It has been in the departments directly under commissioners that have grown the most this year, said Auditor David Hines. There are 28 workers in the maintenance department, up from 15 at the start of the year, he said.

He applauded the hiring freeze, but questioned its timing.

"It is kind of late now," he said. "There are only five pay periods left in the year."

Commissioner James Tsagaris said he supported the freeze, although he said he was surprised when Polivka introduced it during the meeting.

"I don't think we were doing any hiring anyway," he said.

The policy restricting overtime will also affect only relatively few employees.

OK'd for overtime

The only department for which the commissioners routinely approve overtime is the dog kennel, which is funded through dog license fees, not the general fund, Carson said.

Overtime there will continue because the dogs need to be fed on weekends and holidays, he said.

Commissioners' decision last month to hire four maintenance workers, despite the possibility of layoffs next year, is criticized by Polivka's opponent in the November election, Philip DeCapito.

"Don't you think they should have done this eight or nine months ago?" DeCapito said. "The auditor's office already told them about the problem when Danny [Polivka] was appointed to his position in January. Now, there are two weeks left to the election."

siff@vindy.com




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