Commissioners Should Take Pay Cut ALso, Beckner Says


Published: April 1, 2009

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner suggested Tuesday that commissioners look at cutting their own salaries or benefits as a symbolic gesture to show empathy for county employees facing layoffs.

"I know it won't solve the budget crisis," Beckner said. "But it's about everybody doing their part. We need to tighten our belts before we ask somebody to tighten theirs."
Beckner urged commissioners to consider at least a 10 percent pay cut. They now make roughly $100,000 a year, but they can only cut their pay by 25 percent, according to state law. Beckner, a first-term commissioner and financial adviser, said board members could also look at cutting other benefits such as their car allowances.
Beckner made the comment at the end of a three-hour budget workshop. It was the first meeting of commissioners since county officials announced they are considering cutting the county work force by as many as 1,000 positions in the next two years.

Commissioners spent nearly an hour discussing whether County Administrator Pat Bean has sole power in preparing the county budget or whether she needs help from Jim Barnes, the commission's internal performance auditor.

Barnes and his aides made a long presentation on strategic planning and measuring public services for performance. He said the county has no strategic plan for budgeting and does not have an accurate system of measuring outcomes.

After the presentation, Commissioner Jim Norman accused Barnes and Commissioner Al Higginbotham of violating the county charter by trying to shift budget authority to Barnes.

"Board members, if you want to change the charter, you need to take it to the people," Norman said. "This is a veiled attempt to change the charter."

Higginbotham countered that he was tired of being locked out of the budget process by Bean and Budget Director Eric Johnson. Higginbotham said the charter, which is rather like the county's constitution, allows the internal performance auditor to act as a budget analyst.

Higginbotham said Norman's argument about the charter was "a dodge to take everybody's eye off the ball."

"And when we do that, taxpayers lose," Higginbotham said.

Higginbotham said he was not trying to take away Bean's budget authority.

The next budget workshop will be on April 8.

Reporter Mike Salinero can be reached at (813) 259-8303.

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