LARGO — Another lean year for the city's tax coffers could mean another lean year for city employees.
City management's proposed 2012 budget includes no raises for its employees. If the City Commission approves the budget as is, it would extend a wage freeze for non-union city employees into a second year.
City management has added a consolation prize of sorts, though — three extra paid days off for nonunion employees, also part of the proposed $65.4 million general fund budget.
"This is about all we can do right now," said Mayor Pat Gerard. "We wish we could be doing a raise. They certainly deserve it."
City management's goal is for no Largo employees to get raises in fiscal 2012, which starts Oct. 1, but that won't be set until negotiations are complete with all three of the city's unions. Largo's firefighters have already agreed to a 2012 wage freeze, while negotiations with the police union and Communication Workers of America, which represents many hourly employees, are ongoing.
The city's nonunion employees (about 220 of Largo's roughly 874 full-time equivalent positions) are the only ones being offered the three extra paid days off. City Manager Mac Craig said the days off must be used in fiscal 2012; they cannot be banked at the end of the year as extra pay.
Craig said he has been assured by supervisors that the extra days off will not significantly interfere with city operations. Largo has lost nearly 50 full-time equivalent positions since 2008.
Largo's nonunion employees did not get raises this year. They did, however, get raises in fiscal year 2010. City management proposed a wage freeze then as well, but unions balked. Management countered with furloughs — unpaid days off — but the City Commission voted that down.
The City Commission will talk about the budget Friday afternoon at City Hall, during a hearing scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes is a frequent critic of management's fiscal decisions and promises to have a long list of questions for staffers.
He and Commissioner Mary Gray Black disagree with management's 2012 proposal to adopt a rollback tax rate, a rate that brings in the same amount of property tax revenue as this year after accounting for changing property values and new construction. Holmes has called it a tax increase.
He does not disagree with the proposal for a wage freeze, though, and he is not overly concerned that another year without more pay will severely impact employee morale.
"I think having a job and a paycheck is a morale boost in and of itself," Holmes said.
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.