Jobs fair helps Hamilton County workers laid off last week

Jobs fair helps Hamilton County workers laid off last week

June 21st, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger speaks during the County Commission meeting after releasing his 2011-12 fiscal budget that included laying off 37 people.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Some Hamilton County employees who were laid off last week were able to find jobs in other departments Monday.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said 28 of 36 employees showed up at a jobs fair created for those laid off because of cuts in last week's proposed 2011-12 fiscal year budget.

"We've been able to place some people," he said. "Even today."

The county did not have final figures Monday on how many employees were placed in new jobs within the county.

Leslie Longshore, the county's human resources director, said interviews with laid-off employees still were being conducted, and some employees who missed the jobs fair Monday will have opportunities to interview later this week.

"I don't know how many positions we will fill until the end of this week," she said.

The county laid off 36 people last week after Coppinger released next year's budget, which included $13.7 million in cuts to county government. Coppinger said those cuts directly were related to the expiration of the 45-year-old sales tax agreement between the city and the county.

Chattanooga City Council members voted last month to end the agreement, which spelled out how the city and the county broke down financial responsibilities for agencies jointly funded by the pair.

The county received about $10.5 million in sales tax through the agreement, but the money now will go to city coffers at the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

The County Commission voted last week to allow those employees a four-week compensation package rather than the normal two-week severance pay. Longshore said any employees not able to find work with the county would receive pay and health insurance until the end of July.

Most of the layoffs occurred in the human services and health departments. The county also slashed programs to make up for its losses.

Coppinger said Monday he hoped the county could shift most of the people laid off into new positions.

"That's been the attitude from the beginning, to minimize those losing jobs," he said.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said Monday he was glad to hear some of those who lost jobs found new ones.

"We regret that we have to do this," he said of the layoffs. "You regret to see it when it involves lives."

The last major county employee layoffs happened in 1982, he said.

The commission is set to vote on the county budget June 30, and Henry said he hopes more jobs are saved before then.

"They've been dedicated employees," he said.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.