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No hiring freeze talk at Cape agencies

By Staff | Jan 30, 2009

Though the Lee County Sheriff’s Office may consider a hiring freeze as it feels the effects of a downtrodden economy, the Cape Coral police and fire departments have not made similar considerations as of yet, according to city spokesperson Connie Barron.
However, public safety in the Cape certainly is not immune to the drop in city revenue over the past several years.
“When you have significant losses of revenue, even those areas are not immune to some kind of cut, and certainly they have experienced those over the past few years,” Barron said Thursday. “The upcoming budget is going to be another concern.”
The city has not made any concrete decisions regarding public safety similar to the possible hiring freeze at the sheriff’s office, which was proposed in an agencywide memo from Sheriff Mike Scott on Thursday.
However, Cape police and fire departments have to justify the hiring of any new positions to the city, which faces a predicted $30 million loss to the general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year, following a $30 million loss the previous year, Barron said.
Public safety makes up approximately 45 percent of the general fund budget.
“There’ll be a lot of options on the table to discuss,” Barron said. “Needless to say, though, public safety is going to be a priority. We’ve never issued a hiring freeze, but we’ve been taking the steps over the past two years to minimize these revenue losses.”
City council will determine a budget in September for the next fiscal, which begins Oct. 1.
Police and fire have had to grapple with retirement buyouts and declining numbers, as well as some revenues which are dedicated to the new $19 million police headquarters, a project with a slated completion date in July, Barron said.
“Chief Petrovich has definitely had some tough decisions to make over the past two years,” Barron said. “They’re always going to do their best to keep the community safe because that’s what they do, and they do their jobs well. But eventually it gets to a point where you’re potentially doing less with less.”