County Officials Recommend Supervisors Adopt Hiring Freeze


Anticipating a severe budget shortfall this summer, Los Angeles County officials are proposing an immediate freeze on all hiring and promotions for the county’s 83,000-member work force and are projecting significant layoffs later in the year.

County Chief Administrative Officer Sally Reed, hired four months ago on the strength of her reputation for iron-fisted budgeting, is recommending that the Board of Supervisors adopt the freeze at its regular meeting Tuesday as a preemptive strike against an anticipated budget deficit of more than $1 billion for fiscal 1994-1995.

A hiring freeze could eliminate up to 3,500 jobs that become vacant through attrition in the coming year. Layoffs could be significantly higher, Reed indicated, though she stopped short of offering a hard estimate.


“This is a key ingredient in balancing the budget,” Reed said in an interview. “The main reason for the freeze is to make sure as few employees are laid off as possible,” she said.

But there is a secondary reason for seeking the freeze at this point, Reed acknowledged. “It lets people know we are serious,” said Reed. Last month Reed extracted a promise from the Board of Supervisors to live within its means in future budgets. The supervisors have created significant budget deficits in each of the past two years.

The hiring and promotions freeze is just the first of a series of moves that Reed said she will recommend to the Board of Supervisors over the coming weeks, to get a running start at budget deliberations that will commence in June. Reed said she is looking hard at the myriad leases that the county has on office space, with an eye toward giving landlords notice that the leases may soon be terminated.

“I want to maximize the board’s flexibility to bring the budget back in line with revenues,” Reed said.

In the current fiscal year ending June 30, the Board of Supervisors created a deficit of nearly $1 billion by deferring many expenses. Those bills will come due in the next fiscal year, starting July 1.

In addition, county officials reported last month that the Board of Supervisors has been ignoring mounting costs of workers’ compensation, long-term disability, medical malpractice insurance and other liabilities that must be paid in years to come. That tab is at $1.7 billion and is climbing fast, according to Auditor-Controller Al Sasaki.


As a result of these deficits, Reed said she fears the county will have to take severe actions to balance its $13-billion annual budget in the coming fiscal year.

Already county departments have been put on notice that monies from the county’s General Fund may be cut by an average of 36% and general managers have been asked to submit plans on how they will deal with the cutbacks.

Some county departments, such as Social Services, Children’s Services and Health Services, get much of their funding directly from state and federal sources, with the county’s General Fund often paying only a small share. Other departments, such as the Sheriff’s Department, district attorney’s office and libraries, get virtually all of their budgets from the county’s General Fund.

In any case, Reed said, the impact will be felt in virtually every department as the staff cutbacks are implemented.

Workers will likely be shifted between departments in an attempt to staff the most important posts. Others will be kept vacant.

“You’ve got to keep tax collectors,” said Reed, but she was not able to say which departments or job classifications would suffer the brunt of the cuts. She was also unable to say just how many workers may face layoffs.


The decision on layoffs, she said, will be made only after detailed reports and plans are submitted by the department managers. And, she said, she anticipates that the general managers will develop creative alternatives to layoffs.

Already many departments have adopted their own hiring freezes. The Sheriff’s Department, for instance, has hundreds of unfilled positions because of a lack of money to pay for them. Other departments, including several of the supervisors’ offices and Reed’s office, have continued to hire new employees even in recent weeks.

The county is the largest employer in Southern California.