NEW PORT RICHEY — It's going to be a while before New Port Richey hires a permanent city manager.
The City Council on Tuesday night opted to postpone the search for a city manager until May, with an eye toward their pick starting work in October, after the board completes its budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Officials initially planned to begin ramping up a search this month. But council member Judy DeBella Thomas changed her mind, saying the 2010 hiring of the previous city manager, John Schneiger, was done during budget season, which proved to be difficult.
"I think that caused a lot of consternation for us," she said.
Other council members agreed. The city had a painful budget season last year, in which several employees were laid off. City finance officials believe the picture will improve in the coming year, with the economy showing signs of recovery. Still, a city manager search could distract from crucial upcoming budget negotiations.
Council member Bill Phillips also suggested that the search should be postponed until after the city elections in April, when two council seats will be up for grabs.
"We're on a bit of a roll at the moment," Phillips said. "I just think we've gotten so many things moving."
The move means interim City Manager Susan Dillinger, who has run the city's library for 22 years, will manage New Port Richey longer than expected.
"I'll do whatever you need me to do," Dillinger told the council when asked about her thoughts on the interim job lasting longer.
DeBella Thomas said one of the main factors in her decision to push for a postponement of the search was the excellent job being done by Dillinger. The council agreed and also said she deserves a raise for taking on the added duties.
"She needs a bump," Phillips said.
Dillinger took over after Schneiger told Mayor Bob Consalvo in September that he had lost the support of the majority of council. The city paid Schneiger $40,000 in severance as they parted ways.
That payout still does not sit well with Phillips, who has vowed never to vote for a contract containing such a severance package. On Tuesday, he also floated the idea of having the city's attorney work up a contract template the council could review as the search ramps up later this year.