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Arundel executive freezes hiring

The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold imposed a hiring freeze yesterday, in hopes of offsetting millions of dollars in cuts to real estate tax revenues and anticipated state aid.

The freeze, which went into effect immediately, does not apply to emergency personnel.

In light of looming financial problems, Leopold said, "I thought it prudent to take this step in an effort to reduce spending and secure savings."

The county government has 4,026 filled employee positions and 761 contractual or temporary workers, county spokeswoman Marina Cooper said. The hiring freeze would keep vacant 115 open positions.

Leopold instituted a similar hiring freeze a week after taking office in December 2006, when 200 jobs were vacant. It lasted until June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Cooper said that if the new hiring freeze lasts that long, the county will save $4 million.

Every dollar saved is welcome as the county feels the pinch of the sagging real estate market. Anne Arundel's recordation and transfer fee revenue fell 45 percent from December 2006 to December 2007, from $9.5 million to $5.3 million.

Less than two weeks after estimating that the county would bring in $90 million in fiscal 2008 from taxes, which are assessed on property sales and refinancing, budget director John Hammond said yesterday that the figure no longer is realistic.

County officials who are putting together the fiscal 2009 spending plan are also bracing for $300 million in cuts in the state's budget, predicting that local jurisdictions will be affected by the fallout.

Anne Arundel lost $20 million in the recent special session of the General Assembly, Leopold said.

"The expectation is that additional cuts will have some impact, and we have to be in the position to react to whatever those cuts are," Hammond said.

In other recent efforts to trim costs, Leopold has asked all department directors to cut expenditures by 5 percent and cut the number of take-home cars for county employees to save about $600,000 annually.

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