Mayor, council squabble over hiring freeze, funding

2013-06-04T21:00:00Z 2013-06-04T21:22:13Z Mayor, council squabble over hiring freeze, fundingJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Whether or not Portage needed to initiate a hiring freeze was up for debate at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Several members of the City Council and Mayor James Snyder disagreed over the state of the city's finances and whether or not the hiring freeze was necessary.

Last month, Snyder initiated a citywide hiring freeze, saying he was concerned with the city's revenue levels and wanted to wait to hire any new employees until Portage received its tax draw.

During a budget meeting prior to the regular council meeting and during the council meeting itself, several members questioned the city's spending in several areas, whether or not the city was seeing any savings from last year's employee buyouts and whether or not Snyder acted correctly in stopping the hiring process, particularly in the police and fire departments.

"Not a single person here was told about the hiring freeze," said Councilman Matt Scheuer, chair of the budget committee.

Councilman Mark Oprisko criticized Snyder implementing the hiring freeze when both the police and fire departments were in the midst of adding personnel that had been built into the budget.

"I'm asking you to get the numbers up in public safety," he said.

Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham said the city's budget is better this year than last, but there are some issues on the spending side that are a concern. He said he's also working on a report to see how much the city actually saved this year from last year's reduction in employees.

"In the end, the responsibility is on me to make sure the bills are paid," said Snyder, adding he is still unsure what the city's tax draw will be. After that comes in, he added, he will revisit the numbers.

Council President Sue Lynch was also critical of spending by the Redevelopment Commission, saying the funds that the council often lean on may not be available this year because of projects undertaken by the commission and money spent on lobbying.

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