In effort to reduce car perks, Newton to ask that St. Pete administrators track mileage now
ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council member Wengay Newton said Thursday he will make a motion in the coming weeks that will ask administrators and managers who receive car allowances to track how much they drive on the job now, not a year from now.
Newton has continually asked Mayor Bill Foster this year how much car expenses are costing the city. He disagrees with Foster's decision to wait until next year to determine if the 141 people who receive monthly stipends -- that total more than $200,000 a year -- deserve them.
"I'm not saying we should take the money out of the budget for next year, I'm just saying we should have our employees track it and see if they need it," Newton said. "If they don't need it, why should the city spend money on it? I don't know why we should wait."
The perk has been in effect for at least 22 years, and is given to many employees who have desk-bound jobs at City Hall and downtown's Municipal Services Building. Foster said he doesn't want to take away the stipend from employees in next year's budget, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, because the same employees aren't getting pay increases. Taking it away is like taking money out of their pocket, Foster says.
Foster says most deserve the stipend because of the amount of driving they do on the job. He said he does support having the employees track their mileage for a three-month period next year. If the mileage warrants the reduction or elimination of the stipends, then Foster said that will be considered for the 2013 budget, which goes into effect next October.
Newton is one of eight council members who must approve Foster's budget before Oct. 1. A majority of them have told the Times they'd support a look at the perk now, rather than later.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer