Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County considers hiring more firefighters

NEW PORT RICHEY — Three years after cutting 33 positions from the Pasco County Fire Department to make up for a budget in free fall, county commissioners on Tuesday signaled they're prepared to hire enough firefighters to restore the department to pre-2009 levels.

The move comes as Fire Chief Anthony Lopinto said he had burned through his $450,000 overtime budget in May — four months before the end of the fiscal year — because staffing levels are so low.

His request: 11 new firefighters, at an annual cost of $690,000. Coupled with the addition of 15 employees in 2010, that would put Lopinto at his exact 2009 staffing level. (Seven of the positions that were cut that year were vacant at the time.)

"I'm not asking for an increase here," he said. "I'm just reminding you that we're not back to where we once were."

Lopinto said 117 employees are needed to cover each 24-hour shift. On any given day, the department is three firefighters short because of vacation, sick leave and unexpected retirements. And new hires typically need six months of training before they're put in service, he said.

Because this year's overtime budget is depleted, Lopinto has been using "residual" salary funding from unfilled positions to cover those costs. The last resort to cut costs is reducing the number of emergency responders who go out on some calls from three to two.

Such a move, called "brownouts," could increase the risk for accidents. Experts say fire trucks should have four people, so two can wait outside a fire, ready to run inside to help if something goes wrong. Over the years, Pasco has added enough firefighters to go from two workers per truck to three.

At a workshop Tuesday, commissioners said they're willing to hire the new firefighters. With full staffing, Lopinto said the department would spend about $200,000 less on overtime.

"I support his extra staff," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri. "We don't want brownouts in our stations. The more people he has, the less overtime (he is spending)."

To find the money for the new firefighters, commissioners will have to adopt the so-called "rolled-back" property tax rate for fire service. Such a move would offset an expected 5.9 percent drop in property values.

The proposed new tax rate for fire service would increase from $1.42 in taxes for each $1,000 in assessed value to $1.54. For a $150,000 home with $50,000 in exemptions, that would mean roughly an extra $12 per year in taxes if the home's value stayed the same this year.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco County considers hiring more firefighters 06/12/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. J.R. Sweezy shows what Bucs were missing


    By Greg Auman

    TAMPA —- Sunday's season-opening win against the Bears saw the debut of 13 Bucs, a mix of rookies and free-agent veterans.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard J.R. Sweezy (73), seen at center, runs through drills during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, July 31, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  2. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings features a battle of top rookies


    Greg Auman looks at how much the Bucs have changed since the last time they played the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 in our latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Hillsborough okays $1.25 million in Hurricane Irma-related spending with more to come


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners approved $1.25 million in expenses related to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday with many more costs expected to come.

    The overflowing Alafia River, swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma, caused massive flooding near Lithia Pinecrest Road. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved $1.25 million in Irma-related spending.
  4. 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' is exhausting, crass and too long


    Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a tarnished sequel demolishing the original's balderdash charm in a torrent of tumble-dry camera moves, CGI slosh and Elton John f-bombs.

    Taron Egerton stars in Twentieth Century Fox's "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," also starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Elton John, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. (Giles Keyte/20th Century Fox)
  5. New 'cantina-style' Taco Bells to serve alcohol, ditch drive-thrus by 2022


    Taco Bell is ditching drive-thrus and adding alcohol.

    Taco Bell plans to open more than 300 "cantina style" stores across the country that ditches the drive-thru and adds alcohol. [Times Files]