"To me, it's an absolute must," stated Council member Ann McHale. I'm not sure whether she was referring to one or both positions, but the consensus is that both positions are vital and impossible to fill internally.
But before you conclude that nobody is really serious about cutting costs, I have to add that right after this, Ron Angle's Finance Committee went through a checklist of cost-savings measures, from Gracedale to charging more for filings. And yes, tipstaffs were discussed, too.
County Exec John Stoffa told the eight members of Council (McClure was absent) attending this Finance Committee meeting that his goal is to eliminate 100 positions by year's end, but by attrition. At the end of the meeting, he gave me a copy of the email below, which is being disseminated to department heads. Stoffa is calling it a hiring freeze, but it looks more like a hiring frost.
Northampton County, like most local governments, is facing difficult economic times. Our revenue, primarily from property taxes, is stagnant, yet our expenditures continue to grow. There is no apparent financial relief in sight. This is a direct result of the current economic climate country-aide. Local government is being asked to do more with less, and there appears to be no relief in sight from our partners at the Federal and State level(s).
In view of these circumstances, I am instituting an immediate hiring freeze, effective June 16, 2010, on all existing vacant positions. Only upon "special exception" will a position be filled. Special exceptions will not be "rubber stamped", and will need to be justified in light of our dire financial times.
• The "Special exception" proviso will involve the Department Head presenting justification to a special panel who will review the presenting justification. If the special panel agrees that the position should be filled, the recommendation will be forwarded to the County Council Personnel Committee. Only then, and with Council approval, will the position be filled
I understand that this process may sound onerous. Nevertheless, we all must work together and share the burden if we are to continue to provide services to Northampton County residents within the budget restraints we face.
I sincerely ask for your full cooperation and adherence to this policy.