St. Petersburg Mayor Foster to review car allowances -- in 2013
ST. PETERSBURG -- No one is going to accuse Mayor Bill Foster of reacting too quickly on the growing controversy around car allowances.
He defends car allowances as a necessary expense to keep his top administrators and managers from leaving, and a fair way to compensate them for using personal vehicles on the job.
But this week, after the Times reported that 141 employees get the perk at an annual cost of more than $200,000, he said he'd now like to verify if the employees who get the stipend actually need it.
But he won't ask employees to give up their perks until October -- of next year.
"In light of the fact that these employees haven't received a pay increase in three years, I'm not going to take money out of their pocket," Foster said. "But I am looking at how car allowances fit into the 2013 budget."
Foster said that he'll wait that long before requring recipients of the car allowance to keep track of their mileage for three months "to see if changes may be warranted."
If the mileage shows they need less money than their allowances, changes will be made, Foster said.
"I want to know who's using their car for city business and for how much," he said.
By next year, Foster said he hopes he will be able to provide a cost of living increase to their salaries that will absorb the elimination of the stipend. Most of the car allowances range between $92 to $135. Tish Elston, the city's top administrator, gets $200 a month.
Other large governments in Tampa Bay -- Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties -- don't come close to offering car allowances to as many people as St. Peterburg. The stipend has been in place for at least 22 years, Elston said.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer