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Roche pushes Pinellas to ease pension hit to workers

 CLEARWATER -- Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche offered a way Thursday to use the county's savings from changes to the state's pension system: Help the workers being hit by the same changes.

Employees have to begin paying 3 percent into the retirement system. But the county stands to spend $3.8 million less than expected for 2011-12 budget because of other retirement system changes. That savings is expected to grow because it doesn't include constitutional officeholders such as the sheriff.

Roche's idea: Take the savings to make the payroll hit "a wash." 

"I don't believe we should be taking that money and spending it somewhere else," said Roche, a former utilities employee with the county.

While Commissioner Nancy Bostock backed at least easing that hit partly, other commissioners and officials were less enthusiastic. Other officeholders' proposed budgets are short a total of $2.45 million of their reduction targets for 2011-12, and the county face a shortfall in their next budget. Plus, County Administrator Bob LaSala suggested the reduced pension spending by the county might very well be short of the 3 percent payments by workers.

One compromise: Commissioner Karen Seel suggested using the savings to offset a rise in health care premiums for works, expected to increase 15 percent. Give the taxable nature of income, it might show up in a bigger way in paychecks.

But Bostock resisted, saying easing the pension mandate by the Legislature would be a bigger for morale.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:13am]


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