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Hillsborough County lays off 94 as commissioners hold line on taxes

TAMPA — Ninety-four Hillsborough County workers will get pink slips today after commissioners gave final approval Thursday to a budget that includes a nearly $50 million decrease in operations.

Nearly 70 of those employees come from the Parks and Recreation Department, which took an $11 million hit.

The new budget will farm out park maintenance to private contractors and begin turning over county after-school programs to community organizations.

One of the laid-off workers who couldn't find another job with the county is Glenda Hoxit, 50, a parks landscaper. She showed up with dozens of other workers, many of them wearing the green T-shirts of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"Twenty-two years of service to Hillsborough County," Hoxit said outside the meeting. "It's heartbreaking to know I've always dedicated myself to my job."

The plan cut nearly 450 positions, but the actual number of layoffs is far lower thanks in large part to the county's early retirement incentive program and the transfer of some employees into other slots.

Commissioners Les Miller and Kevin Beckner cast the only votes against the $2.95 billion spending plan. Both men expressed uneasiness with the process by which some employees in eliminated positions were put into new jobs — and others were not.

"I have a real serious issue with what has happened to our employees," Miller said. He also cast doubt on whether contractors would be up to par.

"Privatization has been a failure everywhere it's been," he said.

That line drew applause from union members, who told commissioners the county would end up paying more to clean up behind private contractors.

Commissioners set aside $300,000 for the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance, saying they wanted the money earmarked to assist laid-off county workers.

Commissioners slightly lowered the county property tax rate to about $8.96 for every $1,000 in taxable value. So officials can say they've lowered the rate 18 consecutive years.

No one in attendance Thursday night complained about taxes, but Commissioner Mark Sharpe recalled that just a few years ago, the room was filled with fed-up homeowners — not county workers.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Hillsborough County lays off 94 as commissioners hold line on taxes 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:27pm]
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