Minneapolis officials propose citywide hiring freeze

The Minneapolis City Council will consider a hiring freeze next week. Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barb Johnson announced the measure Monday, and the City Council will consider it at a Dec. 12 meeting. The freeze would take effect with the cityâÄôs 2009 budget, Johnson said. It would last until the city decides to remove it and no agency would be exempt. âÄúWe are, I would say, tight-fisted and careful about how we spend our money,âÄù Johnson said. The city already faces problems because of the poor economy. Due to stock market losses, the city projects that it will face about $38 million in new costs for employee pensions over the next five years, according to a news release. While Johnson said she couldnâÄôt put an exact dollar amount on how much a hiring freeze would save for Minneapolis, she did say it would help the city stave off more financial trouble if the economy continues to falter in the future. âÄúItâÄôs a matter of belt-tightening and preventing future scenarios where you would have to lay people off,âÄù she said. Layoffs are not off the table, and Johnson said the city would evaluate potential job cuts in the future. Minneapolis last instituted a hiring freeze in 2003, Rybak spokesman Jeremy Hanson said. At the time, the city faced a $37 million cut in aid from the state, about 14 percent of the cityâÄôs general fund, Hanson said. The city did lay off employees as a reaction to the budget cut, he said. âÄúAs the economy has worsened, and as there is increasing talk about the state budget and potential state budget cuts, the mayor thought that we ought to learn from past lessons and begin to prepare for some of these issues right away,âÄù Hanson said. The city has not received any formal warning from the state regarding budget cuts beyond general concerns raised by state economists, Johnson said. Last month, the University of Minnesota announced it would institute a hiring pause and review all open positions before hiring. MinneapolisâÄô freeze would be similar to that of the University, as job openings would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Hanson said. âÄúPart of what this hiring freeze is, is the city department heads pausing and taking a breath,âÄù he said. âÄúAn extra level of scrutiny will be put on every position âĦ weâÄôre going to more closely assess every hire.âÄù More than 7,000 people work for the city of Minneapolis and its park and library systems, according to an information sheet on the cityâÄôs website.