Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas Park firefighters guaranteed raises for next three years

PINELLAS PARK — No doubt about it, times are tough, with people losing their jobs and houses. And many who still have jobs aren't going to get raises for who knows how long.

That is unless you're a Pinellas Park firefighter. The City Council voted last month to adopt a three-year contract that guarantees them a 3 percent raise each year of the contract.

The firefighter pay increases come at a time when the city was predicting as recently as January that it would be short between $2 million and $3 million in the coming budget year because of the combined effects of the economy, Amendment 1 and dropping property values.

That projected shortfall doesn't tell all of the story. Pinellas Park only managed to fund its current $50.9 million budget by dipping into its savings to the tune of $1.3 million. Those savings are the monies set aside for emergencies, such as hurricanes and other disasters.

Borrowing from the rainy day fund enabled the city to avoid laying off any workers last year, although it has left positions unfilled. But the Fire Department itself took such a hit in staffing that expensive trucks were left sitting because they had no one to staff them full time. The department has since said that it has solved that problem, but the situation raises many questions.

Why would the city choose to give raises rather than hire new people? And how do officials justify guaranteeing increased salaries for three years when many of the taxpayers who finance those increases are themselves without raises or jobs?

Pinellas Park officials asked themselves those same questions during contract negotiations with firefighters, city spokesman Tim Caddell said.

"It was an arduous process," he said.

And negotiators did not give in to all demands, he said. Plus, the firefighters traded raises for other concessions that will save taxpayer money in the long run. Caddell did not have ready access to all firefighter demands or the concessions they had made. The city's Fire Department has 96 employees, and 81 of those of are union members.

Despite the trade-offs, it appears Pinellas Park may be more generous than some other Pinellas cities. Largo, for example, is "considering everything," finance director Kimball Adams said. "Wage freezes. Wage reductions. We're considering it all. Everything is on the table."

Harry Kyne, Seminole's finance director, said, "Except for existing union contracts, I don't think you'd find any city that's guaranteeing anything at this point."

That's certainly the case in Seminole, where fire union contracts are up for negotiation this year. Kyne said no strategy has been discussed yet, but he would expect to see very minor raises, if any, in the new contracts. Three percent, he said, would probably not play well with Seminole residents, considering the current economy.

"I know there's a desire to still not have to cut services. I'm positive there's a desire not to raise taxes," he said. "I think there's also a sensitivity to what's" happening in the world.

One possible solution, Kyne said, is to have a one-year contract. That way, no one gets hurt in the long run. If salaries are frozen but the economy comes back, then a one-year contract allows for the flexibility to be more generous with employees. But if the economy does not bounce back quickly, a one-year contract that granted raises would not tie taxpayers into a long-term situation they could not fund.

Seminole's main negotiations are with the firefighters because the city contracts with the Sheriff's Office for policing services. But Pinellas Park officials also must negotiate with the police union, a process that's beginning now. Historically, Pinellas Park has been fairly even-handed with the fire and police and has then given other employees raises and perks similar to those granted to unionized employees.

If that holds true this year, then Pinellas Park taxpayers could be on the hook for guaranteed raises for all city employees, possibly for the next three years. That would include City Council members, who have automatic raises tied to the amount given to city employees.

Pinellas Park firefighters guaranteed raises for next three years 02/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. No tapes: Trump says he didn't record meetings with Comey


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday he "did not make" and doesn't have any recordings of his private conversations with ousted FBI Director James Comey, speaking up on Twitter after a month-long guessing game that began with him delivering an ominous warning and ended with his administration ensnared …

    President Donald Trump speaks during the "American Leadership in Emerging Technology" event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Washington. [AP Photo/Evan Vucci]
  4. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Senate GOP leaders face tough job in selling health-care bill to their members


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday moved swiftly to begin selling their health-care measure to substantially rewrite the Affordable Care Act to their wary members as they seek to garner enough support to pass the bill in an expected vote next week.

    U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill's chief author, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said "Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief." [AP]