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Pinellas County administrator: No hiring freeze because of 2018 ballot measure

Pinellas County commissioners Karen Williams Seel and Charlie Justice listen to administrator Mark S. Woodard during a meeting in Clearwater.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Pinellas County commissioners Karen Williams Seel and Charlie Justice listen to administrator Mark S. Woodard during a meeting in Clearwater.

Although Hillsborough County enacted a hiring freeze to combat a property tax cut going on the 2018 ballot, Pinellas County isn't doing the same.

The move is a response to the possibility of losing millions every year in property tax revenues if the ballot measure passes. Last week, Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill told staff to freeze all hiring immediately "to allow greater flexibility and options" in upcoming budgets.

At a Pinellas County Commission meeting Tuesday, commissioner Ken Welch asked administrator Mark Woodard if the county had started taking steps to prepare for any looming cuts.

Woodard told commissioners it would be premature to act as though the property tax referendum's outcome is certain. He later said officials would be "deliberate and careful" in how they spend public money during the next two budget cycles.

Currently, Woodard said he sees no reason to make cuts or enact hiring freezes because residents have not voted on the legislation and still demand the services they paid for with tax money.

"The voters have not spoken yet," Woodard said Tuesday evening.  "Across-the-board hiring freezes are broad-brush reactions to things that are ineffective. It's not specific enough or targeted enough. If it were to happen in November 2018, we need to sit down and have those discussions." 

If voters approve the measure, Pinellas County faces a first-year loss of $33.8 million, according to the Florida Association of Counties, which included the impact on other Pinellas taxing authorities.

Additionally, Pinellas has not been on a hiring or spending spree in the years since the Great Recession ended, Woodard added. He pointed out the county has the same number of employees now as it did in 1987.

Records show the county had 1,807 employees in 1987 and 1,863 as of Tuesday.

Information from Times archives was used in this report. 

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 3:00pm]

    

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