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Pinellas administrator, commission budgets spared as other departments cut

Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala and the County Commission have spent much of the summer ruing the cuts and layoffs in most departments.

But two places were spared — their own offices.

Those budgets would even increase slightly under the proposed 2011 spending plan, which faces its first public hearing tonight. While more than 200 employees have received layoff notices, none came from those departments.

LaSala sought 15 percent spending cuts from department heads. But his and the board's budget proposal illustrate how that demand wasn't always followed in a $1.6 billion spending plan.

"There isn't any more room to cut staff positions here," LaSala said of his office. Further, a quarter of layoffs will be management, according to a presentation that will be given at tonight's meeting.

But with morale admittedly down among county workers, LaSala acknowledged, "I'm sure you could find someone in the organization who is not happy with either of those arrangements."

Here's a look at some areas where spending increased:

County administrator

Budget: $1.56 million, up $47,000.

Rationale: Last year the county laid off an assistant county administrator and three others. LaSala said that's enough because the workload isn't decreasing, particularly as management seeks other ways to consolidate and cut operations and costs. A longtime assistant county administrator, Elithia Stanfield, will retire this month from a $166,000-a-year job. LaSala will fill her job, though he said no national search will be done.

County Commission

Budget: $1.58 million, up $38,520.

Rationale: Unlike other budget hearings, the County Commission met off camera to discuss its budget during three public meetings in an office conference room. While commission Chairwoman Karen Seel suggested furloughs, others such as Commissioner John Morroni objected because they didn't want their seven-member staff to have an option that others didn't. Since no one could agree, they did neither. The commissioners voluntarily agreed to cut their pay 4 percent again, but did not impose it on their aides for a second year.

Economic development

Budget: $1.81 million, up $6,100.

Rationale: The 14-employee department lost $321,000 in general county funding, but would make it up with federal grants. During a recession, LaSala and Seel said, the department is key to creating jobs for residents and helping the economy. The agency, which oversees incentives to businesses, has budgeted $215,000 for those grants, up from $192,000 last year. Those incentives are doled out via contracts with the state and companies.

Fleet management

Budget: $18.5 million, up $3.56 million.

Reasons: Despite cutting the staff from 42 to 31, the budget for the department in charge of the county's 1,750 vehicles would get more money to save for future vehicle purchases. Reserves would increase from $3.6 million to $7.6 million. Fleet director Keith Grant said replacement purchases would be frozen, and maintenance deferred — oil changes every 6,000 miles, for example. "You still have to have money for their replacement at some point in time," Grant said.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Public hearing

The county will hold a public hearing on the 2011 budget at 6:30 p.m. tonight on the fifth floor of the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. The second hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21.

Pinellas administrator, commission budgets spared as other departments cut 09/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 10:01am]

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