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Pinellas County hands out first 79 pinks slips

CLEARWATER — Clerk of Court Ken Burke gave 39 employees pink slips Friday as spending cuts begin to pare the ranks of Pinellas County workers.

Another 40 employes lost their jobs in layoffs at Pinellas Business Technology Services this week. They were forced to immediately leave the county agency for security reasons.

On Monday, more than 200 additional employees will learn that they will lose their jobs by the fall in notices sent by County Administrator Bob LaSala.

"Morale has definitely been higher. … This is a very high-stress time. A lot of people are scared," technology director Paul Alexander said.

More than 780 jobs will be cut from the entire county payroll when the next budget year starts Oct. 1, a 12 percent cut from a year earlier. The employees that remain will make up the smallest work force under the County Commission and the administrator since 1988, according to a budget report this week.

It also will be the smallest work force since 2005 for Burke, Sheriff Jim Coats, other independent agencies and elected officials.

The punctured economy and state-mandated property tax reductions have led to an $85 million reduction next year in the county general fund, which is used to pay for salaries and many government services. LaSala asked departments to slash their budgets by 20 percent.

Most of Burke's layoffs will take effect June 26 because they fall under the state budget system, in which the fiscal year ends June 30. The Legislature decided to shift fee revenue for clerks to courts this spring, producing most of the job cuts, Burke said.

The remaining clerk's employees will lose jobs by Sept. 30, the end of the current county budget and the last day for workers let go by LaSala.

LaSala and the County Commission's cuts include axing 379 rank-and-file jobs and 34 management posts, assistant personnel director Gene Pressoir said. That's higher than LaSala discussed in public meetings this week. He and aides did not immediately return calls for an explanation.

Departures were particularly harsh in the technology services agency, where laid-off workers were ushered out to protect secure computer systems. They will have to retrieve personal items later. They will get three weeks of pay.

Job loss fears have prompted employees to submit ideas for ways to cut services. In May, employee Diane Evans sent a countywide e-mail blast of suggestions, including reducing the workweek by a day.

Surviving workers face new duties. About 300 of LaSala's employees will have to change jobs under the county's personnel rules to maintain a paycheck.

Three dozen clerk's employees also will "bump" into other jobs. Another four will retire or resign.

However, the county still needs to cut $10 million by Sept. 30.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Pinellas County hands out first 79 pinks slips 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 11:00pm]

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