OREGON – The Ogle County Board at its Sept. 19 meeting unanimously voted to institute a hiring freeze.
The freeze means every time a current county employee retires or leaves, that position might not be filled.
County Board member Greg Sparrow said the board looked at a hiring freeze early last year but it was not instituted. Now, facing a “structural deficit” that he said was between $750,000 and $1 million, the county had to look at ways to save money.
“Now is the time to deal with this,” Sparrow said.
In a separate interview, County Board Chairman Kim Gouker agreed.
“If the public wants to have a fiscally responsible government, they should look at this as a prudent vote,” he said.
Sparrow and Gouker both said the county has been using reserve funds in the recent past to shore up the budget, but that could not continue.
Sparrow said many county employees will soon become eligible to retire. That is the time to look at the positions and see which might not need to be filled. He said he will bring a plan to the board next month for the county to hire a firm to do a staffing study to see where money can be saved.
Gouker said that revenues have been dropping for the county, and expenses have been going up. He said this plan doesn't mean the county won't hire anyone, but it will look closely at all positions that come open.
He said this move is the “fiscally sound decision,” and that the county simply won't operate with a deficit.
“We're not the state of Illinois.” he said. “We're not Washington D.C. We don't operate that way.”
Sparrow said that if the county didn't come up with a plan to address the situation now, it could have meant layoffs up to 30 employees.
“It's all about having a balanced budget,” Gouker said.