Winter may be warm this year, but the city of Santa Barbara will feel the chill of a hiring freeze in preparation for impending state budget cuts.

Under Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget, Santa Barbara stands to lose $3.9 million in the next fiscal year and about $1.8 million for the remainder of this year. To cover California’s budget shortfall, the state will be taking out a larger share from vehicle license and registration fees – this accounts for the majority of the city’s revenue loss. In order to compensate for the loss, the city will not fill the 46 vacant positions unless the position is critical, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Bob Peirson, representative of the Santa Barbara finance department, said his division was asked to identify how the city could save $2 million in response to the proposed budget. Peirson said a hiring freeze was recommended.

“The freeze was implemented as a cautionary move,” Peirson said. “It provides us with options. The goal is to avoid layoffs and we certainly feel we can do that.”

Barbara Barker, the city’s human resources manager, said the freeze would affect city departments across the board.

“We’re being proactive and putting a freeze on vacant positions to avoid layoffs,” Barker said. “Right now we’re just waiting for Sacramento to see what they’re going to do, which could take anywhere from six to nine months.”

Barker also said if the budget cuts are not approved, the city will lift the freeze and resume hiring for all vacant positions.

“It’s easier to cut back on vacant positions than ones with people in them,” Peirson said.

The city of Goleta will also lose money if the proposed statewide budget cuts are passed. Goleta will lose approximately $800,000 this year and $1.7 million next year in vehicle license and registration fees. Santa Barbara County will lose a total of approximately $18 million next fiscal year.