It's official: Kitsap County hiring freeze now in place

The Kitsap County Commissioners this week approved an emergency resolution that formally implements a hiring freeze through the end of the year.

The move comes two weeks after the commissioners announced the freeze to other elected county officials and department heads.

The last hiring freeze implemented countywide occurred from October 1999 to February 2000.

“This is obviously something that’s kind of a Band-Aid fix,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel. “It’s something I’d hate to see happen, but it is necessary.”

A slumping economy, an unanticipated surge in medical insurance premiums and other funding constraints have created significant budget shortfalls for the county. In an effort to mend the situation, the commissioners have directed county departments to plan on trimming their budgets by 10 percent in 2003 and another 5 percent in 2004 — moves many fear could mean layoffs in the future.

Those budget proposals, which are to detail impacts to service levels, are due next month.

“We think it would be inappropriate to be hiring new staff at this time, if there’s the possibility of layoffs in 2003,” said County Administrator Malcolm Fleming.

The freeze affects approximately 33 vacant positions and any additional positions that become vacant through the end of the year.

The freeze is expected to provide a one-time savings in salaries and benefits of from $750,000 to $1 million from the general fund and road fund.

The resolution provides a few exceptions to the rule, including positions critical to health and safety functions, or positions directly funded by a grant source.

Still, the freeze and impending budget cuts hurt.

“Some will not be happy because it will mean loss of service, but we’re going to have to make the best of what we have,” said Central Kitsap Commissioner Tim Botkin. “It’s sad, but it’s not as bad as telling someone they don’t have a job — that’s something we’re facing down the road.”

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