The Civil Service Department needs about $800,000 more than is set aside for it in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s proposed 2015 operating budget, Personnel Director Lisa Hudson told the City Council on Monday.
The administration’s proposed budget allocates $1.86 million to the Civil Service Department, which operates the city’s human resources services and runs recruitment and retention efforts for city jobs. That represents an increase of $312,333, or 20 percent, over 2014, reflecting extra work related to stepped-up police recruitment efforts.
Monday was the first of at least 12 days of hearings on Landrieu’s proposed 2015 general-fund operating budget. The $537 million spending plan calls for the first police raises in eight years and either the same level of funding or an increase for nearly every city department.
But Hudson said the Civil Service Department needs an additional $838,000 to restore the position of deputy director, which has been unfunded since 2010; to make eight other hires; and to administer tests for top leadership positions in the fire and police departments.
She asked for $30,000 to test candidates for captain and deputy chief in the Fire Department and $90,000 for sergeant and captain exams in the Police Department. The Civil Service staff uses the results to draw up lists of qualified candidates for those positions should they become available.
“We haven’t had an actual list since 2013,” Hudson said of the fire captain position. “So we want to be able to test for that position.”
Without a list of qualified candidates who have passed the exam, the superintendent would have to make a provisional hire until an applicant can be tested, Hudson said.
Landrieu aide Alexandra Norton said the testing requests were unfunded because the city intends to find a less expensive way to carry them out.
“The biggest cost for doing those examinations is room rentals, facility rentals, proctoring the examinations and paying outside graders to come in and do that,” Norton said. “So what we would like to do at the administration is work with Civil Service to help use city facilities that we already have.”
The administration also wants to explore the option of having graders evaluate tests from afar instead of flying them into the city and paying them a per diem and other fees to do that work, Norton said.
City Council President Stacy Head told Norton and Hudson to get together before the end of budget hearings and find a way to ensure that the Civil Service Department can make necessary hires and promotions, specifically within the Police Department.
“If we’re talking about a fairly small amount of money, we may need to make those adjustments,” Head said.
The Civil Service Department and the Mayor’s Office clashed earlier this year after Landrieu proposed a sweeping overhaul of the human resources rules for classified city employees.
The administration said the changes were intended to ensure that the city can hire the best applicants for available positions and retain high-performing employees. Hudson and other critics, including the police and fire unions, said they would open the door to discriminatory practices and might violate the state constitution.