The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 20th

Budget Crunches Slow Hiring for Municipal Jobs

Town employees struggle to handle an increased workload as more than a dozen positions remain unfilled indefinitely.

This year's statewide budget crisis, which has led to reduced funding, has prompted both town governments to greatly reduce the hiring that normally happens. Chapel Hill has implemented an official hiring freeze, while Carrboro is taking a less restrictive, but still conservative, approach to hiring.

Bill Stockard, assistant Chapel Hill town manager, said funding issues have translated into filling no new positions this fiscal year. "Due to the budget, temporarily there is a hiring freeze," Stockard said. "There may be some essential positions, for example, the head of human resources, that we went ahead and filled. But there are other positions that are not going to be filled in the immediate future."

Stockard said positions kept vacant by the freeze might not be filled until late June or July 1, when a budget will be formally adopted by the Chapel Hill Town Council.

While town officials are hoping to fill 12 essential positions, 13 other positions will be frozen indefinitely. Some of the vacant positions are for house maintenance personnel, an engineer coordinator and an administrative analyst.

The town should be able to handle the workload for the time being, said Betsey Harris, Chapel Hill employment coordinator.

But she added that unfilled positions over time could lead to severe problems in serving the town. "People just have to take on extra work," Harris said. "It's always difficult to meet our staffing needs when there are positions that are needed to be filled. ... It does mean there are questions to how we would deliver services."

Stockard said despite increased individual workloads, there has been little negative feedback while the freeze has been in effect. "It may involve some shifting around of duties," he said. "But there is a lot of cross-training that goes around the government, so we're able to take care of that."

Chapel Hill is not alone in its personnel crisis. Carrboro, also facing a budget deficit, has several unfilled positions.

While the official freeze in Carrboro has been suspended, there still remains a budget conflict with filling positions.

Carrboro Town Manager Robert Morgan said that the freeze had put too much of a strain on human resources and that the town was forced to fill vacant positions. "Basically we're making decisions on a case-by-case basis," Morgan said.

Capt. Joel Booker of the Carrboro Police Department said hiring still needs to occur despite the funding crisis. "If there was a freeze for an extended period of time, then we might have a lot of problems."

Stockard also said though the freeze continues, most officials say the situation will be resolved soon. "I think people and employees understand we're doing the best we can. Across town there might be extra work, but there is hope that relief will come."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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