Hillsborough honcho gets backlash over raises for staffers

06/11/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Adminstrator Pat Bean got a smackdown today at a county budget hearing today regarding recent pay raises for some of her top assistants.

It came as the Commission met to try to find a way to cut $144 million from next year’s budget. It also came a day and a half after hundreds of citizens packed the County’s chambers begging that certain services not be cut next year.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner brought the issue up, which was first reported in today’s St. Petersburg Times. The paper reported that six of Bean’s top administrators were given raises as high as 17 percent this year; many of those employees already earn more than $150,000. Bean said it was because they went into new, higher classifications, which automatically required raises.

Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said he was called out by some citizens about the pay raises.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said flatly that nobody should be getting a raise while the county has a deficit of more than $100 million going into 2010.

But Commissioner Jim Norman defended the pay hikes, specifically those for Budget Director Eric Johnson and Debt Management director Mike Merrill.

Norman declared before the meeting even began that that he would not support any raising of property taxes.

County Administrator Pat Bean said that presentation to the Board regarding the budget did not come with a request for a property tax increase, but said that if the Board wanted to pay for ELAPP, the County’s land acquisitions program, new revenues would have to be paid.

What Bean said the County had was a communication tax that has never been fully implemented.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he certainly didn’t want to raise taxes, but he said the Board should hear all of the options on the table.

Later in the discussion, County Commissioner Kevin White advocated getting rid of baby boomers in order to keep younger people on the payroll. Budget discussions will continue next week.

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