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Brooksville city workers to get bonus

Brooksville municipal workers, forced to work without a cost-of-living adjustment during tough fiscal times, will receive something extra in their paychecks just in time for Christmas shopping.

By a 5-0 vote Wednesday night, the City Council approved a one-time pay adjustment of 3 percent for about 140 municipal employees. That means that in addition to his regular paycheck, a person who makes $9 per hour will receive $561 on Dec. 8, according to City Manager Richard Anderson.

The move came as the City Council approved its $30.9-million budget, an increase of 7 percent.

The lump sum payment will cost Brooksville $149,442. The figure is roughly $24,900 more than the original proposal, financial documents show.

Officials initially proposed giving a 2.5 percent bonus to employees for having dealt with cost-saving measures that halted capital purchases and hiring in some departments, and prevented them from receiving a cost-of-living adjustment last year.

But employees were not happy with that proposal.

"Why is it that the employee always bears the burden?" asked Diane Freeman, who works in the finance department.

Council member E.E. "Ernie" Wever said Wednesday that the funds were alloted after estimates for the current fiscal year showed that the city spent less money than anticipated.

But after several employees, mostly from public works, addressed the City Council during the public hearing, saying that they bore the brunt of the city's financial troubles, Vice Mayor Joe Bernardini suggested 3 percent.

Bernardini said higher revenue projections from the public service tax make it possible for the city to offer more money _ roughly $14 more.

Enacted Jan. 1, the measure added 10 percent to residents' electric bills.

This year, the city received $362,500 after collecting the tax for nine months.

During the next fiscal year, the tax is expected to bring in $495,000.

Since the beginning of the budget process in August, the rate increase has been tied to another City Council decision.

This month, council members made good on their pledge to reduce property taxes after the passage of the public service tax. They adopted a 7.87-mill rate.

Since 1997, the tax rate has been 8 mills.

During the 2004-2005 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, homeowners whose property is assessed at $100,000 with the standard homestead exemption of $25,000 will pay $590.25 in taxes, $9.75 less.

In other action, council members agreed to contract with the Pensacola company Roads Inc. to remove debris as a result of Frances. It is the same firm that contracts with the county.

The removal will begin Friday and end Sunday, Anderson said.