Assessor Gets OK for Temporary Help

Ventura County's hiring freeze appears to be thawing.

Soon after imposing a halt to hiring last month, the board agreed to allocate $50,000 to the county assessor for temporary help to catch up on a backlog of property assessment appeals.

Then Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to allow Treasurer-Tax Collector Harold S. Pittman to spend $25,000 to hire a dozen temporary employees during tax season.

Supervisors also agreed to allow the county's Information Systems Department spend $9,700 to hire a temporary staff member through the end of July.

Despite the hirings, Supervisor Frank Schillo, who proposed the freeze to help erase a mounting budget deficit, insisted that the board is standing firm on its cost-cutting policy.

He said the tax collector historically has been allowed to hire temporary help during March and April when tens of thousands of property tax payments pour in.

He also said the money for the temporary staff person in information systems will come primarily from public safety agencies, which are exempt from the hiring freeze.

"This is not a lessening in anyway of the board's resolve (to cut expenditures)," Schillo said of the board's action.

Supervisor John Flynn, however, expressed concern that the board was wavering from its hiring policy.

"If you're going to have a policy, then you better stick to it, or else don't have one," he said.

Schillo said the board has made about all the exceptions it is going to make.

"We cannot open the dam up here for everybody," he said. "We still have to face a $46-million budget deficit."

Meanwhile, the board on Tuesday referred a request by the Local Agency Formation Commission to fill one position--a vacancy for a new secretary--back to that agency.

The board took that action after being advised by county counsel that it could not legally prevent the state agency, which receives funding from the county, from hiring personnel.

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