The town board voted 4-1 Tuesday to continue a hiring freeze started in 2008, but in casting her dissenting vote Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, said the freeze has been overridden so often it can hardly be called a freeze.
"There's a lot of wiggle room in here for a freeze," Fleming said. "It's more of a hiring fog."
But Councilman Chris Nuzzi, R-Speonk, countered, "More than 60 positions have been reduced from 2008 to 2011," under the freeze. Councilman Jim Malone, C-Hampton Bays, also lauded the freeze, saying it forces an explanation from the town board whenever a vacant position gets filled.
Part-time and seasonal positions, committee seats, public safety related positions and positions that are indicated as vacant and funded in the 2012 budget are exempt from the hiring policy. Any further exemptions must be accompanied by a town board resolution explaining why its "necessary to consider the hiring of critical replacement staff unrelated to public safety or financial management."
Tuesday's resolution, an amendment to town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst's 2012 preliminary budget, establishes the hiring policy effective until Dec. 31, 2012. The policy states that the duties of vacated positions will be distributed to other town employees, "so as to avoid overtime expenses and in accordance with the town's contractual obligations."
"I vote no because we continue to hire people despite the fact there is this so-called hiring freeze," Fleming said.
But Nuzzi said it is an exercise in restraint, and it avoids massive layoffs. "It has been an important component of dealing with the economy of the past several years," he said.
Throne-Holst, I-Sag Harbor, said that the policy is about sound fiscal management, but "I won't need a hiring freeze to adhere to that."