Hillsborough Clerk of Courts Pat Frank announces furloughs to cut costs

TAMPA — Employees in the court clerk's office learned Monday they will be joining the ranks of workers facing furloughs.

Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank told her staff that declining court revenue is forcing her to order three furlough days. And she warned employees of likely layoffs and pay reductions next year.

Payments to deferred compensation plans have also been reduced.

Frank said in an Intranet video to employees called "Frank Talk" that courts across the state are experiencing a 12 percent decline in revenue. Hillsborough is down 7.5 percent for the year.

That translates into a $2.6 million projected deficit by the end of the year, and it could get worse yet, Franks said.

"We have scrutinized our budget over and over, and made the least painful cuts we could," Frank said in the video. "However, we came to the realization that the only way we can balance our budget at this time without laying off any employees is to institute furlough days."

The public won't notice. Frank has timed the furlough days with government holidays when the office will be closed anyway. But employees won't be paid for those days off.

The dates are: May 25 (Memorial Day); July 3 (the day off coinciding with Independence Day; and Sept. 7 (Labor Day).

The clerk's office employs about 910 employees and has a roughly $52 million budget to run the court system, maintain county records and serve as the county's finance department.

It tacks fees onto various services and fines to pay for its operations. But those fees are then turned over to the state, which redistributes the money and keeps some of it to pay for other services.

Collections of some of the court assessments are down, Frank said. But she expressed frustration that the cutbacks being forced by the state don't seem to be based on any study, but are just arbitrary.

"It's very much a conundrum the way the decisions are being made," Frank said in an interview. "There's no rhyme or reason to it."

Frank said she is sensitive to hitting her employees in the wallets when some may already be struggling to pay bills. She said all employees will take a pay cut, but that reductions will be more pronounced for those with bigger salaries.

Furloughs and pay reductions will have to be approved the county's Civil Service agency.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough Clerk of Courts Pat Frank announces furloughs to cut costs 03/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:58pm]

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