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Hernando cuts parks manager position; may cost School Board member his post

BROOKSVILLE – The Hernando County Commission cut the top position in the parks and recreation department Tuesday afternoon to help make up for a budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.

With little comment and no discussion, a unanimous board agreed to land services director Ron Pianta's recommendations to make up the $115,000 gap.

The bulk of those savings will come from cutting the position held by parks and recreation manager Pat Fagan.

The other three positions are a parks operations assistant and two maintenance workers. One of those is already vacant and employees in the other two positions had already planned to leave, Pianta told the board.

After the vote, Pianta said Fagan is considering a separation agreement that would keep him on the job until May.

Fagan was not present at the meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Fagan, whose second term on the Hernando School Board ends in November 2012, has said that he would have to resign from the School Board if his county position is terminated.

Under Florida Retirement System rules, Fagan cannot collect his retirement benefits from his county position while still on the public payroll as a School Board member. The father of twin 16-year-old girls has said he cannot afford to defer the county retirement benefits and live on the School Board salary for the rest of his term.

If he resigns, the governor would appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next election. The qualifying period is in June. School Board races are non-partisan, and all candidates will be on the Aug. 28 primary. If a race has three or more candidates and no candidate receives a majority of votes, the top two vote getters would move to the general election ballot in November.

The move is the latest in an effort to downsize and reorganize county government to cope with a general fund laid low by plummeting property values. It also fits with a credo of County Administrator David Hamilton to have fewer managers and more management.

Hamilton was on vacation Tuesday. Community services director Jean Rags filled in for him.

Last month, the commission decided not to make youth recreation leagues pay fees to use county fields. Officials estimated that those fees would have generated about $229,400 to help pay for field maintenance.

Instead, the board opted to pay maintenance costs by taking $115,000 from interest earned on the county's judicial center fund and by cutting another $115,000 from parks and recreation department expenses.

A county employee for the last 33 years, Fagan had served as parks and recreation director until a reorganization that changed his title to "manager." His compensation is $118,916, including benefits. He's eligible for a payout of about $20,500 in accrued, unused time off.

Fagan, 61, told the Times two weeks ago that he had been offered a deal that would have allowed him to stay until May 27 if he signed a release stating he would not bring litigation against the county. He declined. At that point, according to Fagan, Pianta told him he would recommend to the board that Fagan's position be eliminated.

Fagan is one of three supervisors in the county department that oversees parks, recreation and waterways. Harry Johnson is recreation coordinator; Roy Link is maintenance supervisor. The department had 26 1/2 positions before Tuesday's vote.

Link started with the county in 1983 and receives $87,743.30 in salary and benefits. Johnson has been with the county since 2000 and receives $77,400.66 in salary and benefits.

Fagan told the Times in a recent interview that he'd hoped the county would have kept him on at least until August, when he turns 62 and would start collecting Social Security benefits. He said last week that he did not plan to lobby commissioners to keep his position.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Hernando cuts parks manager position; may cost School Board member his post 02/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 5:19pm]

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