Despite hiring freeze, Walworth County can still get new workers

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Saturday, September 25, 2010
— Walworth County’s newly implemented hiring freeze will not put a hard stop on hiring county workers, but it will allow the county to hold the line on tax increases, Administrator Dave Bretl said.

Bretl this month instituted the hiring freeze. The county’s human resources committee, which will play a crucial role in the freeze, has met once since, he said.

Already, the committee decided to refill most of the considered positions, he said.

Before the freeze, department managers decided when or if to fill positions when workers retired or left their jobs. With the freeze in place, managers’ decisions no longer will be automatic, he said.

Instead, a manager who wants to fill a vacant position must get permission from the committee. The committee likely will hear such pitches from department heads monthly, Bretl said.

“It will be a soul-searching process by the committee,” Bretl said.

The committee could make blanket decisions on hiring. For example, committee members could decide to refill all sheriff’s department lieutenant positions, Bretl said.

Bretl doubts the committee will do so, and he recommends against it, he said.

One downside is that the freeze will increase the time it takes managers to fill positions, he said.

In a memo to the committee, Bretl advised members to take their time considering each position, to be consistent and to ask difficult questions if necessary.

“Making sure that no stone has been left unturned prior to refilling a position is in everyone’s interest,” Bretl wrote.

Bretl also cautioned committee members, employees and the public against bringing anger into the debate. The freeze is not intended to pit elected officials against staff or make employees feel they are not valued.

“This isn’t a ‘gotcha thing,’” Bretl said.

It is about evaluating the efficiency of each department and holding down levy increases, he said.

The freeze also will create awareness of the challenge of running the county with fewer and more specialized employees.

Bretl said officials must be cautious because taxpayer anger at pay increases for public employees seems to be growing.

That anger is misplaced because local officials’ hands are tied by state negotiating laws, Bretl said.

“How do we react to that?” Bretl said. “One way is to staff as efficiently as we can to get the most out of our employees every day.”

Walworth County Budget

A look at the propsed 2011 budget for Walworth County:

Highlights: The big news is a hiring freeze in the county. Rather than automatically refilling positions, managers must get permission from the county human resources committee to do so. Administrator Dave Bretl sees the freeze as a long-term budget management tool.

Property values in the county decreased 3.59 percent. That’s the first time the value has decreased for more than 10 years.

A $6 million jump in the total budget is attributed to the county’s every-other-year road work program.

What’s next? The county board will host a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1, at the Walworth County Government Center, 100 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn. The budget could be adopted Nov. 9.

Total budget

Next year: $148.45 million

This year: $142.69 million

Increase: 4.04%

Tax levy

Next year: $60.79 million

This year: $59.09 million

Increase: 2.88%

Tax rate

Next year: $4.20

This year: $3.96

Increase/Decrease: 6.06%

Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.

Last updated: 2:52 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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