Hillsborough to vote on furloughs for county workers

04/08/09 Mitch E. Perry
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With the Hillsborough government facing a deficit of more than $100 million, County Commissioners today agreed to lead by example by voting to furlough themselves several days sometime later this year.

The idea of the Commissioners taking a hit themselves originated last week from Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Last month, County Administrator Pat Bean stunned some commissioners when she said that the county could be looking at a thousand jobs being cut because of the worsening economy.

Bean said on Wednesday that she had a plan to save many of those jobs, an idea she said she had endorsed after speaking to many county employees. But Bean catutioned that she hadn’t decided how many furloughed days was she looking at – and cautioned that it wasn’t a panacea for the county’s economic ills.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he completely agreed that furloughs were the way to go.

Bean said she would prefer to spread the furloughed days out through the year to avoid excessive financial pain.

The official motion was offered up by Commissioner Al Higgenbotham.

Meanwhile, all local governments in the country were assigned a negative outlook by Moody’s Investor Services, the first time the credit rating company has given such an assessment to the overall group of debt issuers.

The implications are serious, says Mike Merrill’s, Hillsborough County’s Administrator for Utilities and Commerce.

Moody’s cited "unprecedented fiscal challenges" facing American cites, counties and school districts when the unemployment rate went to 8.5 percent last month, a 25-year high.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Moody’s analyst Eric Hoffman said the collapse in housing, turmoil in financial markets, and what may be the broadest and deepest national recession since the 1930s will pressure many, if not most local government over the next year to year and a half.

Administrator Mike Merrill said the county will be affected in terms of budgeting. Merrill said he thought the other two major credit agencies would follow Moody’s move. He belives that Moody’s will soon go through every local government individually to assess further their credit rating.

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