Hillsborough workers protest administrator's budget plan to privatize public jobs listen09/15/11 Josh Holton
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Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation calls itself the “Heart of Hillsborough,” but they were at the heart of proposed budget cuts last night. The Board of County Commissioners unanimously moved the budget for next fiscal year onto a final hearing. But nearly 450 county jobs may be cut and handed over to private contractors. About 75 county workers protested outside.
Union workers lined the sidewalks in front of the County Center in downtown Tampa, holding signs that said “Stop slashing services,” and “A Strong community needs a smarter budget.” The almost three billion dollar budget makes several reductions, but County Commissioner Victor Crist said a large portion of that could be achieved by opening public sector and union jobs up to private contractors.
Accountability issues with private contractors are a big concern for public workers with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. One worker said she had gone after contractors to do work that county employees had to repair and finish. Susie Shannon is a public worker who said this happens frequently.
This county union said that Hillsborough County is holding more and more money in its reserves that could be used to pay for public services. County worker Mike Carranza said the union is losing more funding every year.
Victor Crist said the County is actually creating jobs that the private sector can compete for, but it will mean taking away jobs from public workers.
Last night the Board also voted to reduce the millage rate as part of the proposed budget with Commissioner Les Miller being the only dissenting voice. Carranza said that while there may be a reduction, it will only have a minimal positive impact for homeowners.
Although the tax decrease will make less money available to fund some public services Commissioner Mark Sharpe defended the decrease in the millage rate.
During public comment Susie Shannon said that many of these public workers are concerned more about the quality of services provided to the county, and not just about their pay and benefits. County worker Jerry Ryals agreed.
But Susie Shannon said this budget process isn’t over yet.
Hillsborough residents may view the County Administrator’s recommended budget online before the vote. The final hearing on the budget will be at 6:00PM on September 22nd at the County Center.