Officials: 90-day vacancy period will save county $2.2M

LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett County Commission voted Wednesday to leave all vacant government positions open for a minimum of 90 days, a move expected to save at least $2.2 million.

The action essentially extends a general hiring freeze on all positions that report to the county administrator that has been in place since August 2008.

“These challenging economic times have presented those of us in government a tremendous opportunity to more closely examine our priorities,” County Administrator Glenn Stephens said, “and to find new ways to innovate with the goal of becoming more efficient, more effective organization.”

The vacancy period is part of an effort to close an $18 million gap in the county’s budget, officials said. Under the plan, approximately $1.8 million of the projected savings will occur in the general fund, Deputy County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Aaron Bovos said.

Combined with an increase in ambulance transport fees and the sale of right-of-way to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the budget gap would stand at about $14.4 million.

“Gwinnett County families and businesses are having to tighten their belts and do more with less,” said Commission Vice Chair Shirley Lasseter. “County government can be no different. At the same time, we cannot and will not compromise the county’s ability to deliver essential public services that the people of Gwinnett County expect and depend upon.”

During the 90-day hiring freeze, county department directors and managers are also being asked to re-examine the need to fill vacant positions, and determine whether the work could be reassigned among current employees, Bovos said.

Stephens is also given the authority to grant exceptions to the 90-day requirement.

“We recognize there will be times and situations where it will be necessary and in the larger public interest to go ahead and fill a vacancy immediately,” Lasseter said.