CLEARWATER — Barry Burton, the Illinois official negotiating to be the next Pinellas County administrator, wants an annual compensation package of $302,100 — $50,000 more than what retiring administrator Mark Woodard earns.
The $302,100 includes a base salary of $272,000 and $30,100 each year for deferred compensation and car and phone allowances. The base salary is higher than those paid to long-serving administrators in Hillsborough and Orange counties, according to Pinellas County records.
Burton also requested a one-time payment of $67,200 for relocation assistance and health care costs. Commission chairman Ken Welch will convene a special meeting Wednesday for commissioners to discuss the proposed employment contract.
An email Welch sent to the other six commissioners on Sunday said "the starting compensation and relocation expenses do reflect a negotiation process." He called the proposal "a fair offer for both Pinellas and Mr. Burton."
"As a 31-year county employee, Barry's salary expectations were somewhat higher than our salary range," the email stated. "On the other hand, the lack of a state or local income tax in Pinellas is a mitigating factor, among others."
In a statement, Burton said he has worked in local government for 30 years, including 17 as the top administrator of a large, urban county.
"The proposed salary is in line with the significant responsibilities that go with being the county administrator of Pinellas County," the statement said.
Commissioner Janet Long said she has concerns about Burton's salary request, especially since the county could lose millions of dollars in property taxes if voters pass a controversial amendment on November's ballot that would expand Florida's homestead exemption. "I am very anxious to have the discussion about why this is such a 'fair deal' for Pinellas County," Long said.
Pinellas commissioners need an administrator to replace Woodard, who will retire later this year after 30 years with the county.
Burton's salary request might cause sticker shock compared to Woodard, who annually earns $252,241. He declined an employment contract, deferred compensation and a car allowance when accepting the position in 2014. At the time, he told commissioners he didn't want perks that other employees could not earn.
If commissioners approve the $302,100 compensation package for Burton, it tops the $280,389 paid to the county administrator in Hillsborough and the $271,922 paid in Orange, according to a salary survey submitted last week from the Pinellas County Office of Management and Budget.
Similar packages for county administrators in Broward and Palm Beach are $354,000 and $311,000, respectively, according to the survey.
Another sticking point could be Burton's starting date. When commissioners selected him Aug. 16, several said that Burton, the county administrator for Lake County in northeastern Illinois, told them in interviews that one of his deputy administrators could fill his role. Commissioners told him they wanted the next administrator to start on Oct. 1.
Now, Burton says he cannot start until Nov. 1 because his employment contract requires him to give a 60-day notice before leaving. Welch's email said Woodard has agreed to stay on the job until Nov. 1.
Burton's statement Monday said Pinellas commissioners didn't ask about his contract during the interview process.
"I'm sorry that they were surprised by the 60-day provision," his statement said. "It was not a secret and I would have certainly disclosed this if (and) when asked. It simply did not come up until we were negotiating my contract."
Contact Mark Puente at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente.