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Hernando's budget director may get more responsibilities under new plan

BROOKSVILLE — After commissioners shot down his first plan this week, County Administrator David Hamilton is devising a new job description for his top financial officer.

Hamilton said Friday he is proposing a job with more responsibilities for Hernando's 10-year director of the Office of Management and Budget, George Zoettlein, a job that would land him on Hamilton's leadership team.

Zoettlein probably would take on some new administrative duties, but he would keep the same salary and benefits package, Hamilton said.

In August, Hamilton told Zoettlein that his position would not be included in the 2010 budget. With deputy administrator Larry Jennings taking early leave and the budget job eliminated, Hamilton had proposed combining both jobs into a director of budget and administrative services.

The goal, he said, was to have more management but fewer managers. The merger also would have saved taxpayers an estimated $120,000 a year in salary and benefits, he said.

Zoettlein had already signed up for the early leave package, but he said he was interested in applying for the new position. He added that he didn't want to go and had intended to finish out his government career in the next six years.

The commission approved the concept of the new position when the budget was approved in late September. On Tuesday, however, things changed.

The board rejected the job description for the merged position and the plan for filling it. Then Commissioner Jeff Stabins made a strong pitch for Zoettlein to keep his job.

Zoettlein has had no negative evaluations and has been preparing the county's budget documents for a decade, Stabins argued. He also noted that, with Jennings' departure, the budget office needs continuity.

The county needs a strong budget officer, Stabins said, pointing out that the county has gotten by for long stretches in recent years without a deputy administrator.

Commissioner Jim Adkins backed Stabins, saying he didn't want to spend more money to hire another person to do Jennings' tasks. Commissioner Rose Rocco noted that Hamilton has been in his job long enough to know what tasks need to be done by administration.

Hamilton said Friday there may have been some misunderstanding about what his initial proposal would have cost. He said that combining the jobs held by Jennings and Zoettlein would save the county at least $120,000. He had no intention of making the new job pay more than the total cost of the two positions.

In the new job description, Hamilton said he would make it clear that the finance job would be at or below Zoettlein's current salary range but that Zoettlein would be grandfathered in and his pay would not drop.

He now makes $97,739 in salary, $127,792 including benefits.

The salary range for Zoettlein's current position is $72,488 to $116,857, the same amount proposed for the position the commissioners shot down. Hamilton said the pay grade may go down one step, and if it did, the range would change to between $69,014 and $111,257.

He noted that Zoettlein, in his current job, is making as much or more than other members of the county's leadership team, of which Zoettlein has not previously been a part. As Zoettlein joins the leadership team, he should take on a few additional duties, Hamilton said.

One major task that would not be included this time is the responsibility to fill in for the administrator when he is not available. Hamilton said the leadership team would instead rotate those responsibilities in his absence.

During Tuesday's discussion, Stabins said one duty he especially wanted Zoettlein to be responsible for in the coming year is to help the county find a way to deal with a predicted revenue shortfall of $9.5 million from the general fund next year.

"Handling the budget, that's what I was hired to do,'' Zoettlein said. "If they let me continue to do that, I'll be more than happy to do it.''

The new job description proposal is set for discussion at the next commission meeting Oct. 27.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando's budget director may get more responsibilities under new plan 10/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 12:46am]
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