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County implements hiring freeze as cost-saving effort amidst COVID-19

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County commissioners on Monday implemented an immediate hiring freeze for county departments in an effort to limit expenditures during the uncertain future of COVID-19’s economic impact.

As economists continue to measure the impact from COVID-19 on sales tax revenue and with the presentation of next fiscal year’s budget a month away, County Manager Aaron Church said hiring freezes are the first step in limiting expenditures.

Commissioner Craig Pierce asked about the effect a hiring freeze would have on employees who are close to retiring or employees who decide to resign from their positions. Church said hiring for those positions would freeze unless an exception is made. Department directors can petition for exceptions to the hiring freeze by submitting a completed “Hiring Freeze Exception Request Form” to Church’s office.

An exception to the hiring freeze, Church said, will be considered for positions that are critical to citizen and employee personal health and safety and in compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations and the delivery of essential county services.

Pierce also asked Church to look into allowing staff to retire sooner than planned under an early retirement program implemented years ago. Pierce said many employees close to retirement continue working in order to receive their medical benefits, but allowing them to retire early would be another cost-saving measure.

Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene asked what effects a hiring freeze would have on the county’s effort to bring Rowan County Transit services in-house. In March, commissioners voted to move those services in-house by October instead of using contractors.

Church said the hiring freeze would not affect moving those services and hiring those employees because it will take place in the 2020-21 budget. Additionally, bringing employees in-house reduces the cost of the program as well.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved a financing request for technology and capital improvements at Kannapolis City Schools in the amount of $1 million, as well as a financing request for the construction of a concession stand at Dan Nicholas Park in the amount of $600,000. The financing plans will be considered by the Local Government Commission in June.

The term of the financing is five years. The projects received four bids, and the county agreed to grant the bid to U.S. Bancorp Government Lending and Finance, Inc., which proposed an interest rate of 1.649%. The next lowest bid was from BB&T Governmental Finance with an interest rate of 1.87%.

Also at the meeting:

  • Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for May 18 regarding an incentive request from “Project Lake.” The project would be a new employer in Rowan County that would create 388 jobs over the next five years, with an estimated investment of approximately $14.1 million in new construction and equipment.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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