TAMPA — Another round of layoffs is hitting the Building Services Division of Hillsborough County, yet one more indication of the ongoing sour economy.
The latest round would cut staffing in the office that reviews permit applications for new construction to less than half of its peak in 2006, when the frantic pace of development began to deflate.
"The hope had been that there might not need to be more reductions," said Hillsborough County spokeswoman Lori Hudson. "We're at a historic low in housing starts nationally and that's reflected in Hillsborough County."
County Administrator Pat Bean will ask commissioners Wednesday for permission to trim 36 positions within the Building Services Division of the Planning and Growth Management Department. Of those, eight jobs are currently vacant. The remainder are filled.
Bean won't suggest raising permit fees to offset the need for cuts. It would take raising fees by 21 percent to avoid the need for layoffs, according to material submitted to commissioners Tuesday.
"The market just isn't there for that," Hudson said.
This would be the third round of layoffs within the division since the fall of 2007, and is expected to shave about $1-million in operating costs through the end of the fiscal year. The prior two rounds eliminated 47 and 25 jobs, respectively.
If the board approves, which is expected, the number of jobs in the office will fall to 81, down from a high of 189 less than two years ago.
Even with the cutbacks, the office will continue to run at a $1.8-million deficit, with the county tapping a reserve account built up during more robust times to make up the difference.
Under county labor rules, those who receive pink slips can apply for the jobs of other people who hold less seniority, effectively "bumping" that person from his or her job. So the layoffs may not be felt solely within the building office.
"There is the potential that someone could go out the door from a department other than the one that's doing the cutbacks," said Eric Johnson, the county's administrator for management services.
Bill Varian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3387.