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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas commission debates cutting pay, staff



CLEARWATER -- Commissioners haggled over cutting their office's budget this morning, but failed to agree to cut their salaries or pay their own health care costs. The consensus after two hours: They need another meeting to figure it out.

The board has a $1.5 million annual budget and 14 employees -- half commissioners, half staff. But with most county departments facing a 20 percent budget cut, some commissioners say it's time to reduce their own spending. Hillsborough County counterparts have agreed to furlough themselves.

"It's just really hard for me to justify what we're doing with the people ... those who make the county run, and here we try to protect our own," Commissioner Susan Latvala said.

One option, pressed the most by Commissioners Karen Seel and Ken Welch, would deduct their pay by 4 percent, if allowed, or make commissioners pay health care costs. Members' salaries -- nearly $91,000 a year --- are set by a state formula that includes population and state employees' pay rates, not by the commission. If the formula doesn't produce a reduction for 2010, however, Seel said the board could pay for their health care costs.

"To be honest with you, I'm not sure I would agree to cutting my salary," Commission Chairman Calvin Harris said.

Another option would cut up to three aides' jobs, an idea Latvala backed but Welch and Harris opposed.

Other possible cuts: the $10,000 travel budget and the printers in their offices (there's a printer/scanner/copier combo machine for the whole suite).

"We're going to be able to do something symbolic," Welch said afterward. "It's all symbolic."

The county has to cut $85 million for the 2010 budget.

David DeCamp, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:50am]


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