D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke, saying he wants to save taxpayers "the burden of supporting a bloated personnel level," urged Mayor Marion Barry yesterday not to recommend any additional government positions when he submits his 1989 budget request to the council next month.
In addition, Clarke asked the mayor not to fill 1,200 new positions during the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, and to consider measures to reduce hiring.
The District's personnel costs have grown from $704 million in 1981 to about $1.2 billion this year, a 72 percent increase, Clarke said in a letter to the mayor.
If spending continues at the current rates, he added, personnel costs will double every nine years, rising to $2.4 billion by 1997.
"We must control that growth, and I realize that it requires difficult choices, but we have a chance to hold increases down and thus avoid mortgaging our future," Clarke said.
A spokesman for Barry said the mayor has not seen the letter.
In October, Barry sent a memorandum to department heads, asking them to prepare provisional budget cuts of 10 percent in an effort to offset rising public safety costs, revenue shortfalls and possible curbs in federal funding.
In his letter, Clarke said he was pleased that the mayor's October memo also asked agency heads to "delay all discretionary hiring."
In addition, Clarke noted, the cost of a pay raise for police, required under a compensation agreement negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police, would be partially funded through a modified freeze on new police positions.
Clarke did not call for an absolute freeze on new positions. Instead, he said he wanted a "net freeze," meaning the overall number of D.C. government employees would not grow despite increases in some positions. The District employs about 38,000 workers.
Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), citing a shortage of city nurses, said, "This is a decision that has to be made deliberatively, but if a hiring freeze is necessary, I would exempt the hiring of nurses for D.C. General Hospital."
Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) said Clarke's proposal would not affect her recommendation last week that the council authorize 150 new police officer positions in next year's budget if Operation Clean Sweep, a highly visible campaign against illegal drugs, is dismantled. She said the new police positions, estimated to cost $5 million, could be financed from overtime funds.
The mayor and the council have tangled over the size of the city's work force in the past. Last year, Clarke, Finance Committee Chairman John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) and other council leaders slashed more than $11 million from Barry's plans to hire several thousand new government employees.
In June, a private study criticized the Barry administration for attempting to expand city services and hire new employees rather than control costs and continue efforts to trim the city's long-term budget deficit, now about $200 million.