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Hillsborough County commissioners vote to cut their car allowances in solidarity with employees facing a budget squeeze

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners will have a little less gas money after a vote Thursday.

In an effort to show they are feeling the pain of county employees facing layoffs and pay cuts, commissioners voted 5-0, with two members absent, to cut their own car allowances by more than half.

What was once a $540 monthly car perk will fall to $233.

"I would just like to set the tone early," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who made the surprise proposal during a budget workshop Thursday. "I think we need to place ourselves first in front of the pay cut line."

In April, Beckner suggested commissioners take a 10 percent pay cut as a symbolic gesture in trying times. The rest of the board would agree to accept only whatever wage cuts county employees face next year.

County Administrator Pat Bean proposed in her budget released earlier this week that employees take five unpaid furlough days. As part of her cost-cutting plan, she also seeks to cut the county match of employee retirement savings plans by 1.5 percent.

That's a 3.4 percent hit for the rank and file, which would have extended to commissioners.

Beckner's proposal will pre-empt that.

He suggested commissioners go a little further Thursday by agreeing to cut their own compensation package by 4 percent. He didn't warn the other commissioners, two of whom, Jim Norman and Mark Sharpe, were absent.

Rather than cut their own roughly $92,000 annual salaries, Beckner convinced commissioners to take a commensurate amount from their car allowances. That avoids the need to change a county ordinance and the public hearing necessary for altering their salaries.

This was tidier and immediate, Beckner reasoned.

Commissioners Kevin White and Chairman Ken Hagan initially moved to delay a decision for a future meeting when their absent colleagues would be present.

"At a minimum, I think that's a common courtesy," Hagan said.

They relented with some clarification of the proposal by Beckner and once it was clear from board members' comments that there were enough votes to pass it.

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

Hillsborough County commissioners vote to cut their car allowances in solidarity with employees facing a budget squeeze 06/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 4, 2009 11:15pm]
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