Hillsborough County approves nearly $3 billion budget
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09/23/11 Alessandra Da Pra
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Last night, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a nearly $3 billion budget for next fiscal year. Union members at the public hearing in downtown Tampa say the budget undermines county workers.

Union members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees wore green T-shirts and protested the budget that includes a nearly $50 million cut to operations and layoffs of more than 90 county employees. The union members criticized the proposed budget and shared their concern about how the ongoing consolidation and privatization of county services will undermine workers as well as the county itself.

That was Jerry Ryals who has worked for 21 years as a full-time electrician for Hillsborough County. Many employees like Ryals have worked for the county for decades and know the ins and outs of the trade. But union members said private contractors may not have the same expertise.

Ryals has not gotten a raise for the past five years. That’s despite having to work harder lately after the layoffs of about seven county electricians. Ryals said county electricians earn between $15 and $20 an hour and there are only 10 of them covering the 300 county buildings. The new budget will affect Parks and Recreation Department the most.

Mark Carranza works for the county’s water department and he, too, wore a green T-shirt.

Carranza has worked for the county for the past 33 years. His mood was not completely pessimistic after the public hearing.

The budget passed by a vote of 5-2. Democratic Commissioners Les Miller and Kevin Beckner voted against it.

Beckner expressed his gratitude toward county employees and called the process painful.

Beckner disagrees with some of the methods that were used to determine layoffs, such as reapplication interviews employees had to go through for jobs they already held.

Both Miller and Beckner received applause from the audience during the public hearing.

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