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March 25, 2002
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Georgia Glass, Personnel Director, 441-7517
Steve Hubka, City Budget Officer, 441-7698

Mayor Implements Hiring Freeze
Wesely considers additional cost saving measures in preparing city budget

Mayor Don Wesely today announced that he has implemented a hiring freeze for the City of Lincoln effective immediately. The hiring freeze will help reduce the potential for layoffs of city employees in the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

Wesely said significant spending reductions will be necessary to balance the city's 2002-2003 budget if sales tax collections continue to be lower than projected. Sales tax revenue makes up 43 percent of the tax-supported budget. As sales tax revenue slowed last year, Mayor Wesely imposed spending restrictions and held back about $5 million in authorized spending to ensure the city's current budget remained balanced. Those measures included:

Putting on hold a majority of the current year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects that were to be funded from the city's general fund. CIP projects slated for fiscal years 2002 through 2006 are to be moved back one year.

Eliminating discretionary travel for all employees. Exceptions are being considered for necessary employee training and for travel in which there is no city expense.

Declaring a moratorium on the use of re-appropriated funds in August 2001 and then removing from department budgets 90 percent of the re-appropriations from the previous fiscal year.

"The city is now looking at a $5.5 million gap in the 2002-2003 city budget, which begins September 1," Mayor Wesely said. "We must hold the line on spending. A hiring freeze now will ensure that fewer city employees will lose their jobs and fewer cuts in services will have to be considered."

The hiring freeze means about 20 currently vacant positions are on hold. Mayor Wesely said this is a hiring freeze with a review. If a position opens during the freeze, it will not be filled unless approved by the Hiring Review Committee. In its review, the Committee considers the options and overtime costs caused by not filling a position.

City employment is about 2,199 FTEs (full-time equivalents). About 95 percentage of city employees are represented by one of five unions: Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1293; Lincoln City Employees Association; Lincoln Firefighters Association, Local 644; Lincoln Police Union; and the National Association of Government Employees, Local R9-38.

Options being considered by the Mayor in developing next year's budget include a reduction in capital improvement spending from the city's general fund; a potential reduction in merit pay increases, if agreed to by the city's Unions; retirement incentives; bidding out city employee health care insurance; potential staff reductions; and reductions in service. Wesely said fee and revenue increases will be the last measures considered.

The City Council, meeting today in an evening session, will consider an ordinance to establish a retirement incentive program and a resolution to fund the program by transferring money remaining in department funds from prior fiscal years.

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