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Pay cut for Hillsborough commissioners posed

TAMPA — With large-scale layoffs likely at County Center, newly elected Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner wants the pain to be shared by him and his fellow board members.

Beckner is proposing that commissioners vote themselves a pay cut and look at trimming other benefits, such as their car allowance, for next year.

County Administrator Pat Bean has said she may have to recommend eliminating as many as 1,000 employees to plug a projected $110-million deficit in next year's budget. Commissioners currently make about $92,000 annually and have a $550 monthly car allowance.

Beckner said he thinks commissioners should consider giving themselves at least a 10 percent pay cut.

"No, that won't solve the budget crisis we have, but it's everybody doing their part," Beckner said. "We have to tighten our belts before we ask others to tighten theirs."

He floated this at the end of a budget meeting Tuesday, saying he wants to discuss the idea at the board's next workshop, April 8. His fellow commissioners responded with a stoney silence.

But they shouldn't be surprised that Beckner raised the topic. The Democrat defeated Republican Brian Blair in November, relentlessly attacking him for opposing a similar proposal in July 2007.

In several campaign mailers, Beckner claimed Blair had given himself a pay raise based on his opposition to a pay freeze that year. Blair is now suing Beckner for libel, claiming that the pay raise assertion and others during the campaign were false.

The pay freeze proposal was pushed that year by Republican Al Higginbotham, but he didn't get any support. Blair accused him of trying to take food from his children's mouths.

"I got smacked down," Higginbotham said, adding that he remains supportive of commissioners taking some financial hit, particularly since the economy has gotten much worse since he last broached the idea.

Commissioner Ken Hagan, who instead won support during the 2007 debate for trimming commissioners' car allowances and travel by 10 percent, said he is willing to consider a pay cut and other trims in expenses.

"I'm not opposed to discussing it," he said, adding that any plan ought to be based on what employees are facing, rather than just be a random number.

Commissioners' salaries are set by a state formula that takes into account population and other factors. But the Hillsborough County Charter allows them to cut their salary up to 25 percent.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Pay cut for Hillsborough commissioners posed 03/31/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 12:11am]
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