Staunton freezes city-government hiring to combat higher fuel, energy costs

Item by Chris Graham

Rising energy costs are forcing the budget hand of Staunton city manager Steve Owen, who announced this morning that he has implemented a hiring freeze as a first step toward offsetting the skyrocketing costs of fuel and electricity.

“As with any city, our biggest expenditures are in the area of personnel, so we really have to hold down costs there to achieve the savings we need,” said Owen, whose hiring freeze will begin immediately and is expected to last a minimum of 120 days.

The city government will also monitor overtime costs to try to minimize them in the interim period.

City Council had built into its 2008-2009 fiscal-year budget increases in expenditures for fuel and electricity, “but our latest projections show that costs could rise faster and further than anyone expected,” Owen said.

“We have to be prepared and take the steps necessary to insure that the most vital city services continue in the face of these higher costs,” Owen said.

Other measures taken by the city to combat the higher costs of fuel and energy include reducing lighting in public buildings, turning up thermostats in office buildings for the summer, and beginning efforts to convert about a dozen traffic lights to flash-only mode at night.

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