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Tarpon officials may raise their pay

City commissioners could be in for their first salary increase in nine years, if the money can be found in the city's budget.

Commissioner Cindy Domino asked commissioners to consider increasing their salaries after the budget session is over. She noted that the monthly salary of $329 has not been increased in nine years.

"The cost at times far exceeds the $329 a month," Domino said during a budget workshop Tuesday night. "For someone not financially well off, it is a little more difficult."

Increased insurance costs have made at least one commissioner's take-home salary negligible. Blaine LeCouris said he has stopped cashing his checks from the city. The 31 cents take-home pay just wasn't worth going to the bank for, he said.

"I don't expect to make money in office, but then again I don't want it to cost me too much, either," he said.

It was LeCouris' case that prompted Administrative Services Director Bob Bublitz to evaluate commissioner pay. The cost of conducting city business has increased since 1984, when the commission received its last salary increase _ a $15.70-a-month raise. It was time that the commissioners' salaries kept step, he said.

"When you are in public service, you shouldn't have to pay much out of your own pocket to perform city services," he said.

Salaries would need to increase substantially to be equitable by today's standards, Bublitz wrote in a memo to commissioners. Commissioners' monthly salaries should increase to $511 and the mayor's to $1,000. The mayor now makes about $500 a month.

Bublitz noted there was money available in the proposed 1993-94 budget that could cover the more than $14,000 total cost for the raises.

Mayor Anita Protos said she pays out of her own pocket for numerous things that are city-related. But she also noted she doesn't mind doing so.

"It does cost me more than the rest of the commission," she said. "I buy a lot of tickets to parties I am invited to, presents . . . take people to lunch. But I don't charge the city. I want to do this."

Commissioner Dudley Salley said a salary increase was hypocritical.

"For three years now we have been asking the (employees) to tighten belts with no pay raise, but we would give ourselves one. It's very demoralizing."

But Domino noted that it had been a long time since the commission had given itself a raise.

"We have had to tighten our belts for the last nine years," Domino said. "I really feel this is something that needs to be improved."