BROOKSVILLE — Strapped by a budget shortage that could top $4 million, the County Commission is asking workers to accept cuts including 10 furlough days, a smaller benefits package on top of state-imposed employee contributions toward retirement, and the loss of two paid vacation days.
Not surprisingly, the Teamsters union team meeting Wednesday with Hernando County's negotiators was less than thrilled. Part of their response was an insistence that their colleagues at the county's five elected constitutional offices share in the pain.
The package was a far cry from what the Teamsters had sought including pay raises of 3 percent next year, 3.5 percent the year after and 4 percent the year after that in addition to lump-sum bonuses.
Cheryl Marsden, director of administrative services, said that while furlough days for county workers would only trim $278,000 from the general fund budget, it was a start.
She said the constitutional officers refused to impose furloughs. On a positive note, she said, commissioners this week seemed interested in another tactic: Taking the same amount from constitution officers' budgets as the furloughs would have saved, and letting those officials figure out how to absorb the hit.
The commissioners are going to have to stand by their guns on that, Teamsters team members said.
"I really think this is an equity issue,'' Teamsters business agent Steve Mosely said. "I know the members don't want furlough days. They didn't want them last time. But they didn't want to see people laid off.''
This time, he said, the rank and file will not accept the furloughs if all county offices don't "share the pain,'' he said. "I can tell you my members are not interested in suffering.''
The package included the furloughs, which county officials have proposed as Furlough Friday with non-essential board-controlled county officers shutting down on the last Friday of the month.
That won't work without the constitutional officers shutting down, said Teamster negotiator Dan Oliver. The buildings would still have to be open and maintenance workers would have to be on hand.
Marsden pointed out that other furlough arrangements could be considered and noted that the details were not yet worked out.
The loss of pay due to furloughs would be slightly less than 4 percent for workers, she said. The county is also proposing an additional percentage cut for those workers making over $60,000, which would bring the total cut to 5 percent for those employees.
Approximately 440 of the county's 660 workers are represented by the union.
The Teamsters also urged the county to tell them what it was willing to spend on benefits for employees. Mosely said that the union "has to be able to sell the employees'' on the contract.
That news also wasn't good for the workers.
While the county today provides a single employee $670 a month to pay health insurance premiums and buy options such as dental and vision insurance, the proposal would cut that to $546 per month.
The current 12 paid holidays would shrink to 10.
After receiving the package, the Teamsters met in a private caucus for more than two hours. They returned with just a couple of agreements but none on the big-ticket money issues.
Mosely said that his team would assemble a counter proposal this weekend to present at the next session on Monday at 9:30 a.m. in the engineering conference room at the Department of Public Works.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.