Oklahoma City implements hiring freeze

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The city has implemented its first hiring freeze in four years as officials prepare for an anticipated $9 million shortfall in revenue.

The city will not fill 160 open positions, Assistant City Manager Catherine O'Connor said.

A weak economy contributed to lower-than-expected revenue from sales taxes and especially use taxes during the first five months of the city's fiscal year, which began July 1.

A moderate summer and balmy fall translated into less revenue from franchise fees paid by gas and electric customers. Revenue from fines and fees for licenses and permits also is down, she said.

``This won't apply to open fire and police uniform positions ... but every other opening is frozen unless a job offer already has been made,'' O'Connor said.

In addition to the hiring freeze, O'Connor said, Oklahoma City also is delaying some capital improvements normally paid for out of the general fund.

The job freeze is an attempt to limit layoffs, O'Connor said.

City leaders were able to use the tactic effectively during the 1997-98 budget year, she said.

``We had a very dramatic downturn in our sales tax revenues that year. And we did pretty much the same things we are doing now.

``One of the reasons we are implementing the hiring freeze is to build up our vacancies so that if we do have to cut the budget, we won't have to lay off as many people.''

Despite the freeze, O'Connor said, city leaders are not panicking.

``The optimist in me says it is a little too early to tell how bad our situation will get,'' she said. ``My message to city residents now would be for them to just be sure and shop in Oklahoma City for the holidays.''