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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dunedin lays off fire marshal, proposes other staff reductions in 2013 budget

DUNEDIN -- The city laid off its fire marshal this week, and five more staffers could lose their jobs if budget cuts in City Manager Rob DiSpirito's budget proposal are approved.

DiSpirito says the layoffs - most of them administrative support positions made obsolete by technological advances - are being recommended as part of a larger plan to ward off a projected $1.2 million shortfall next year.

The City Commission, which was to get its first glimpse of the proposed budget late today or Monday, will have final say over whether to retain five of the employees through financial maneuvering during summer budget talks.

However, the most visible layoff - of Dunedin Fire Marshal Bill McElligott - was effective immediately upon being handed down Tuesday.

DiSpirito and Fire Chief Bud Meyer said that's because one of McElligott's former job duties, fire inspection, will be absorbed by a civilian, and Meyer wanted at least six months to hire and train the new fire inspector before he retires in January.

The layoff will save an estimated $50,000, plus eliminate pension contributions.

The move has drawn fire from residents, who laud McElligott's nearly six years of service to the city. Some have questioned the sudden need for layoffs, when last year the city reduced the property tax rate and spoke of having healthy reserves.

But DiSpirito called the cut a last resort, necessary because of declining property values and a commission directive that supervisors working to balance the budget lead with "efficiencies" in lieu of raising property taxes and reducing services. City leaders want to save reserves for operational costs, he said.

DiSpirito said this was the third year that Meyer offered the fire marshal position as a potential cut. The city manager has discretion to make midyear operational decisions, so McElligott was laid off immediately.

"I held off until I ran out of alternatives," DiSpirito said, adding that this was the first major fire department cut in at least five years. "We just got to the point when we couldn't take it out of other departments. ... We really didn't want to take a firefighter off the front lines."

For more details on restructuring within the fire department and the other proposed layoffs, click here.

--Keyonna Summers, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Friday, June 1, 2012 5:53pm]


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