Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pain at Hernando County Clerk of Court, County Courthouse: layoffs, furloughs, pay cut

BROOKSVILLE — Fewer state dollars are prompting the Hernando County Clerk of Court's office to lay off employees, reduce staff hours and implement furloughs.

A similar pinch is being felt throughout the Hernando County Courthouse as state budget cuts trickle down to the local level.

All judges, state attorneys, public defenders and court personnel earning more than $45,000 will take a 2 percent pay cut next year. All other funding remained level, meaning the threatened layoffs and furloughs in the judiciary won't happen.

The salary cuts may not sound like much, but Chief Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Sr. said they follow three years without raises.

"It is not unsubstantial," he said outside his Brooksville office.

This year, however, the clerk's office is facing the most pain.

Hernando Clerk Karen Nicolai said the state cut her budgets for the next fiscal year by roughly $650,000, or 18 percent. Other counties received much steeper staff cuts.

She said she mitigated the impact by not filling a half-dozen open positions. But she still needed to trim more than $100,000 from her $4.2 million budget.

She recently laid off a full-time clerk who computerizes old court files and a part-time clerk who answers questions at the front desk at the courthouse entrance.

"I'm not as bad (off) as most clerks," she said. "We are not as big. Plus, we made sure we were downsizing as we went."

A number of other clerk employees are voluntarily reducing their work schedules from five to four days, and the highest-paid employees are taking an unpaid furlough day.

Nicolai took these measures to avoid a broader pay cut.

All of this occurs as the court system gets bombarded with additional cases prompted by the downturn in the economy, such as foreclosure claims.

Residents will likely see the effects in a slower-moving court system. "I would hope they don't see them too much," Nicolai said.

Nicolai's $126,577 salary is controlled by the state but she plans on taking a symbolic furlough day. She said she would donate one day's pay to the clerk's office. "It's just as if I didn't get paid for the day," she said.

The coming fiscal year marks a change in the way the clerk's offices finances are handled.

In this year's legislative session, the judiciary and clerks battled over control of court-related functions and finances. In the end, the Legislature took oversight of the clerks' budget and ordered a study of the court and clerk operations that could result in the transfer of some duties.

The Florida Association of Court Clerks estimates the recent changes in Tallahassee could eliminate 1,500 to 1,800 positions statewide.

The fight left hard feelings. Nicolai said her relationship with Merritt, who supported the changes, is "very strained" but declined to discuss specifics.

Merritt felt the opposite.

"I think people can have differences of opinion on important issues without it having to be personal," he said. "I have no animus for Karen at all."

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Pain at Hernando County Clerk of Court, County Courthouse: layoffs, furloughs, pay cut 05/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 6:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former owner of Sirata Beach Resort purchases two Tampa Bay shopping centers

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — After selling the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference in February, Nicklaus of Florida, Inc., has purchased two Tampa Bay shopping centers to diversify the firm's portfolio in the area. Colliers International, representing the sellers, announced the transaction this week.

    Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, one of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels, was sold to a Texas-based company, Crescent Real Estate LLC for $108.19 million. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  2. Shania Twain arena tour includes Tampa stop this time


    Shania Twain is coming to Tampa as part of a major U.S. tour in support of her forthcoming (and long-awaited) new album Now.

    Shania Twain will play Amalie Arena in Tampa in 2018.
  3. In one day, fundraisers appear to reach goal to move Confederate monument from downtown Tampa


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners gave an ultimatum Wednesday to people who want to move a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa: Raise the money yourselves or it stays. They had 30 days.

    It took 24 hours.

    Private money is flowing in to help move the Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument from the old county courthouse to a private family cemetery. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Who are the antifa?


    On Monday, President Donald Trump capitulated to the popular demand that he distance himself from his comment that "many sides" were to blame in Charlottesville by explicitly denouncing white nationalism. "Racism is evil," he appeared to grudgingly concede, "including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

    A group of counterprotesters who identified themselves as antifa, or anti-fascists, rest Saturday during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. Counterprotesters in Charlottesville came united against white supremacy, but they advocated a wide array of beliefs, tactics and goals. [Edu Bayer | New York Times]
  5. Lucky carrot: Alberta woman finds mother-in-law's lost ring

    Bizarre News

    CAMROSE, Alberta — A Canadian woman who lost her engagement ring 13 years ago while weeding her garden on the family farm is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot.

    In an undated photo provided by Iva Harberg, Mary Grams, 84, holds a carrot that grew through her engagement ring in Alberta, Canada. Grams, who lost her diamond ring 13 years ago while pulling weeds in her garden, is wearing it proudly again after her daughter-in-law pulled it from the ground on a misshapen carrot. Grams, 84, said she can't believe the vegetable actually grew through and around the diamond engagement ring she had given up for lost. [Iva Harberg/The Canadian Press via AP]