Job freeze could hurt city, some say | NevadaAppeal.com

Job freeze could hurt city, some say

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer

Supporters of a four-month freeze on some city government hires say the decision will save money while others say it could hurt departments and the people they serve.

The Board of Supervisors exempted police, dispatchers and firefighters from the freeze on “noncritical” jobs and will define what “critical” means at its next meeting.

If the city doesn’t stall hires now, it might have to fire the workers later, said Mayor Marv Teixeira, who proposed the idea. He said sales taxes have been down, so the city should be ready for a slow economy.

Look at the numbers, he said. From July 2006 to July 2007, money from sales taxes was down about 4 percent overall and 17 percent at auto dealerships – the biggest sales tax contributor.

But the plan, said Sheriff Kenny Furlong, wasn’t researched and the people who supported it didn’t know what they were voting for.

“I’ve been cutting to the bone the last 18 months,” he said. “And for them not to say this was coming at me Thursday was a big mistake.”

Though dispatchers and deputies won’t be affected by the job freeze, dispatchers weren’t initially exempted. This shows how poorly the freeze was planned, he said.

If the mayor would have announced what he was going to do, Furlong said, a lot of the problems could have been talked about at the meeting. Furlong was out of town at the time and heard about the freeze over the phone.

“It really caught me off guard,” he said. “Way off guard.”

Because the sheriff’s department cut positions earlier this year, he said, he should know if jobs are in trouble.

“Hell,” he said, “I let my management assistant go.”

Excluding police and firefighter positions, about 30 jobs are open right now.

John Simms, the chief juvenile probation officer, said he doesn’t think two positions he considers critical will be cut, but he is concerned.

One of the openings is for a detention center counselor and the other is for a juvenile probation officer. If his department doesn’t have a counselor, he said, then the detention center will have to release some juveniles because it won’t have enough staff to safely manage the building.

If he doesn’t have a new probation officer, who will manage 25-35 young people, that means less supervision for offenders.

The city doesn’t have an exact amount yet, but Teixeira said the job freeze could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars that the slow economy might take away.

“We could well be over $1 million upside down by the end of the year,” he said at the meeting Thursday, adding later, “This is for 120 days, this is not the end of the world.”

The housing market, which Teixeira said was a major part of the problem, could stay slow for another six months, according to Rick DeMar, chief executive officer of the Builders Association of Western Nevada.

This affects the whole city, he said, because everyone will have less money since less will be spent.

“This is a very bitter bullet that millions of Americans are going to have to bite,” he said.

The job freeze, however, might not end up saving the city any money, acknowledged City Manger Linda Ritter.

She said that a few years ago, the city hired nine firefighters and saved money because it was paying less overtime. She will give monthly reports, though, to track overtime pay.

Also, during the freeze, departments can ask the supervisors to hire someone considered critical.

Though some departments think they will be hurt by the freeze, some said they would be able to work with it.

There are about 10 openings in the parks and recreation department and while that could slow down work, said Director Roger Moellendorf, “we’ll just have to do our best to not allow that to become a problem.”

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

New Dog Rules

Once signs are up, new rules for dogs in Carson City parks will go into effect. The rules are being changed on a trial basis. All dogs must be under control of their owners.

• Fuji Park: Hours for dogs off leashes restricted to 6-11 a.m. Dogs are not allowed along the creek, due to bear concerns.

• Mayor’s Park: Dogs allowed on a leash all day; off leash 6-9 a.m. and 2-6 p.m.

• Sonoma, Long Ranch and Blackwell’s Pond parks: on or off leash allowed all day.

• Monte Vista Park: on leash only.

• Ronald D. Wilson Memorial Park: on and off leash as soon as construction is done.

• In the future when money available. Mills Park, on leash.