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STUDY NEEDED ON COUNTY SALARIES

County utilities worker fired

May 7 article

I read the article about Gary Morse, plan rate specialist for the Hernando County Utilities Department, being fired for falsifying/overstating his time sheets by as much as 38 percent, working as a utility consultant for a private company and conducting personal business at work.

I could not find a job description for a "plan rate specialist" anywhere. What exactly is a plan rate specialist? With less than six years of time on the job, does this position deserve a salary of $63,086.40, plus benefits of $21,580.51? (His salary is around twice that of a schoolteacher). The article stated: "There is an indication that the employee didn't have a sufficient workload to stay busy." I'm surprised his supervisor, Chuck Lewis, who apparently gave Morse rave reviews, was not also fired rather than be demoted. In my opinion, he should have been fired as well.

But my question is with regards to the salaries of county employees/managers. It seems every time I read about Hernando County employees, their salaries and benefit packages far exceed those of the typical Hernando County private sector employee/manager. How is this possible? Why is there such a large discrepancy? Could this be the major reason there is such a huge deficit between revenues collected and budgeted/actual expenses? I believe the difference is currently around $5 million.

It seems to me that rather than having to close parks and other county amenities paid for and enjoyed by the taxpayers, perhaps the time is long past due to investigate the high salaries and benefit packages of Hernando County public employees.

I would like to see the Hernando Times do a study comparing county employees' salaries, wages and benefits as compared with those in the private sector. I believe the results would be shocking.

Frank S. Fischer, Spring Hill

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Property owners' burden too much

Dan DeWitt is one of my favorite writers to follow whose recent article gave a compelling argument for raising taxes, at least a little bit. There is room to boost millage enough to offset the current shortfall in revenues flowing from property values in Hernando County.

It is unfortunate our tax structure relies so heavily on those who own property. European nations, among others, have a value-added tax on all sales and services that shares the burden fairly for providing entitlements, public education, government services, infrastructures and national defense.

The real base for tax collection comes from middle-income constituents who own homes and property and have discretionary income to participate boldly in the economy and pay sales taxes. Those in lower brackets of income often do not pay income for taxes. Other billions are lost from the rich and corporate earnings in loopholes and from legislative relief favoring the wealthy with tax reductions.

Thank a veteran for their service and thank your neighbors who are productive in the job market and the economy for their contributions in keeping America strong with their tax contributions.

Deron Mikal, Brooksville

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Another point on red-light cameras

Before any more red-light cameras are installed, people should go out and inspect each one and have each one conform to international standards for traffic lights.

That standard is that they should have the yellow light remain on one second for every 10 mph of speed limit for that intersection/road.

Anything less than that and it will be a trap for the government to steal drivers' money.

Robert Van Istendal, Spring Hill

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Budget doesn't forsake children

About a month ago, this newspaper published a letter I wrote about the state of Florida budget woes and a plea to fully fund the Guardian ad Litem program. Statewide there are 7,700 unpaid volunteers representing almost 23,000 children who are involved in dependency court proceedings because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. In Hernando County, there are 96 volunteers representing 229 children.

The Guardian ad Litem Program volunteers are supervised by a small dedicated professional staff funded by the state of Florida. Past budget cuts resulted in 8,000 children without any best interest representation. The program staff persevered and through the hard work of the staff and the volunteers saved the state $8.5 million.

The program was in jeopardy of losing a significant amount of funding in the new budget that would have resulted in many more children without any representation.

I am happy to report that the new state budget fully funds the Guardian ad Litem Program at 2010 levels. Legislative members that went above and beyond were Sens. Ronda Storms, Nan Rich, Arthenia Joyner, Gary Siplin, Mike Fasano and J.D. Alexander and Reps. Janette Nunez, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Darryl Rouson, Darren Soto, Rich Glorioso and Denise Grimsley.

My grateful appreciation is offered for their support and their concern for the most vulnerable children of our state.

Thomas W. Lovelock Sr., Brooksville

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YOUR VOICE COUNTS

We welcome letters from readers for publication. To send a letter from your computer, go to www.tampabay.com/letters and fill in the required information. Type your letter in the space provided on the form, specify that you are writing the Hernando section of the newspaper, and then click "submit." You also may cut and paste a letter that you have prepared elsewhere in your computer.

If you prefer, you may fax your letter to (352) 754-6133, or mail it to: Letters to the Editor, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613.

All letters should be brief and must include the writer's name, city of residence, mailing address and telephone number. When possible, letters should include a handwritten signature. Addresses and telephone numbers will not be printed. The Times does not publish anonymous letters.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste, length and accuracy. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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