POMONA — City Administrator A. J. Wilson last week imposed a hiring freeze on all city departments in an effort to help the city control spending and possibly lower its utility tax.
With the freeze in effect, directors of city departments must have Wilson's written approval to replace workers who quit, retire or are fired.
"It requires them to look carefully at whether they really need that position," said Dayle Keller, Pomona's budget officer.
The city has 29 vacant positions in its work force of 750 employees, Keller said. Among the vacancies are 11 positions in the Police Department, six of them for sworn officers, and four positions in the Fire Department, three of them for firefighters, she said.
Because Pomona's police force is already smaller than those of most comparably sized cities, some residents have questioned a hiring freeze for that department.
"I think that's almost criminal," resident Frank Girardot told the council at Monday's meeting.
Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant, a longtime advocate of such a freeze, assured Girardot that Wilson would permit hiring additional officers in case of "a real need or emergency."
"The hiring freeze . . . only applies to unnecessary personnel, as determined by the city administrator," Bryant said.
City Council members unanimously support the freeze as a means of apportioning needed cuts in the 1988-89 fiscal year budget.
The financially strapped city has had to cut expenditures every year since 1982. It is paring $531,000 from the current budget in a "revenue conservation program."
To help reduce the gap between revenues and expenditures, the council has relied on the city's 11% utility tax. However, the tax is extremely unpopular, and all council members have pledged to reduce or eliminate it.
A 1% payroll tax, the leading proposed alternative to the utility tax, has failed to win council support.
According to Mayor Donna Smith, the other remaining options for the council are either a "split-rate" utility tax, in which residential customers would pay less than businesses, or even greater spending cuts.