Pasco lays off 43 county workers

Pasco government officials handed out pink slips to 43 employees this week, a result of budget cuts, department reorganizations and outsourcing.

Nearly half of the laid-off workers are custodians whose jobs are being eliminated due to outsourcing janitorial services.

The contractor, O,R&L Facility Services of Winter Park, has said it would hire those county employees for at least three months, though at a lower pay.

Other jobs lost include a part-time elderly nutrition worker; a County Commission secretary who works at the Dade City courthouse; seven parks and recreation workers; a fire inspector; three library workers; a bus dispatcher; two personnel department employees; and a technician.

A permitting manager and four other professional employees lost their jobs, including an engineer; two public transportation workers who handle marketing and Medicaid; and a higher-ranking personnel department employee.

Counting vacant and filled positions, Pasco eliminated 60 full-time and 11 part-time jobs for the upcoming fiscal year.

County officials also this week opened up nearly 65 positions, a mixture of new jobs and vacant ones that can now be filled. Nearly half of those positions are in utilities. Another seven are in parks and recreation — with different titles from the ones that were just eliminated — and four are in animal control.

Pasco is also filling 15 vacancies in fire rescue.

Personnel director Barbara DeSimone said it's unlikely all the laid-off workers will find new jobs with the county, given that they may not qualify.

Parks director Rick Buckman said the layoffs in his department are the result of getting rid of supervisory positions, such as crew leaders. He said his laid-off workers can apply for the open park attendant positions, which would pay less.

Last year, 98 workers lost their jobs, but more than 60 of them were rehired in other county positions.

DeSimone noted that utilities services, which is doing most of the hiring, gets its funding from fees, not from the general fund, which has been hard hit by tanking property tax revenue.

"They have a lot of vacancies over there," she said. "They had them frozen but they really need to fill a bunch of them."

This is the second straight year of layoffs and the third year of frozen wages in county government, thanks in large part to declining property tax revenue for the general fund, which pays for basic services like law enforcement, libraries and parks. The Pasco tax roll this year lost $2.7 billion in value.

Commissioners this week scaled back a proposed tax hike after restoring a handful of positions in veterans services and the social services department.

Pasco has also been offering an early retirement buyout package, which includes two choices for employees: either medical insurance coverage for up to three years after they leave (worth about $5,000 a year) or a $5,000 lump-sum payment.

Of the roughly 400 full-time eligible workers, 27 applied for the buyout but only 13 applications were approved, DeSimone said.

All this comes against the backdrop of an effort by the Teamsters to organize more than 1,000 of Pasco County's rank-and-file workers.

Employees will decide this month whether to unionize. They began receiving their ballots on Tuesday and have until Sept. 30 to vote.

A Teamsters representative did not return a phone message Thursday, but the union has been in the county this week and showed up outside two employee meetings called by county administrators.

County officials are meeting today with laid-off workers about their separation packages and assistance programs. A career fair, which will feature information on both in-house openings and outside agencies offering work, is scheduled for Wednesday morning at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson.

Laid-off employees who don't get rehired by the county get their unused annual leave plus a quarter of their unused sick time. Their last day is Oct. 8.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

By the numbers

43 Pasco government employees laid off this week.

71 Total positions, vacant and filled, eliminated.

65 New county government jobs available, a mixture of new and vacant jobs.

$2.7B Decline in the value of Pasco's tax base from last year.

Pasco lays off 43 county workers 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 9:41pm]

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