Rockford Council Approves Hiring Freeze

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If you're looking for a job with the city of Rockford, you'll have to wait a while. The city council voted unanimously Monday night to freeze all city hires, except police and fire, for the next sixty days.
The hiring freeze is part of an effort to scrap together money to patch up Rockford's neighborhood streets. If it were extended and held in place for a full year, it would save about a half million dollars for the 2007 budget.
"We're just looking to create some dollars that we can put towards road maintenance because right now we're a year and a half behind, so yeah this just a one year temporary deal where we're trying to cut services, find ways to scrimp and save so that we have those monies," says Alderman Joe Sosnowski.
A modified version of the plan to raise Rockford's sales taxes by one percent also passed out of committe Monday night.
Mayor Morrisssey says it includes enough funds for neighborhood streets, without holding off on hiring new workers and filling about a dozen currently vacant jobs.
"We put forth a budget that doesn't have extra fat in it. The positions that we put in the budget end up bringing us to a balanced budget. Between that and some of the changes we've got in our Capital Improvement Plan, I'm not sure what the councilmen that have been supporting a hiring freeze are hoping to gain out of it," says Mayor Morrissey.
The mayor's plan requires that voters approve the tax hike referendum this April. That's something they chose not to do for a similar referendum last year.
The full council expects to vote on the referendum's final phrasing next Monday. In the meantime, council members will take a closer look at the hiring freeze and consider other possible cuts.
Alderman Sosnowski says he wants to raise an extra $1.5 million for neighborhood roads, even if the referendum does pass.
Other budget cuts could include salary freezes or reductions and a one percent cut across the budgets of the legal, public works, community development and finance departments.
The finance and personnel committee will look at the city's full 2007 budget next week and consider any changes the council needs to make. The budget is scheduled to pass at the end of March.