City layoffs called a last resort
By ANNE LINDBERG
Published May 2, 2007
Council members swiped at the Legislature over insurance and proposed tax cuts while assuring city residents that layoffs would be the last strategy used to balance Pinellas Park's budget.
"The last thing we want to do is cut employees, " Mayor Bill Mischler said during Thursday's council meeting. But, he said, the council was unable to "positively" eliminate layoffs as a solution to a severe tax cut.
Mischler's statement came in response to concerns aired by resident Peter White, who said he had heard rumors of possible layoffs if the Legislature was heavy-handed in rolling back the tax rate.
"Now is the time you've really got to cut back in this city to keep these people employed, " White said. Employees are the city's biggest and best assets, he said.
"We know there's going to be cuts, " Mischler said. But layoffs are a last resort, he said.
Before laying people off, Pinellas Park could look at its donations to charities such as Girls Inc., the Boys & Girls Clubs or Neighborly Senior Services.
"Those may be cut out. We may have to cut some of our leisure services out, " Mischler said.
Council member Rick Butler chimed in.
"Look what they did for you for insurance, and don't you feel better for it?" Butler asked. "So, don't you know they'll do a real good job on cutting your taxes, just like they did the insurance?"
He was referring to a decision the Legislature made during a special session in January that was designed to cut insurance rates by allowing insurance companies to buy more backup coverage, or reinsurance, from the state-backed Florida Hurricane Catastrophic Fund.
Butler continued, asking White: "You got a reduction, didn't you?"
White: "No, no, I didn't get a reduction."
Butler: "Well, maybe they didn't do such a good job. Okay. So let's count our chickens before they're hatched. The best thing about this session is it's going to end in about a week and the residents of Florida will breathe easier when it's over because it's flying better than a chicken coop. Okay. And when it's all done and over with, I'm sure there'll be some substance out of Tallahassee that we'll all be proud of, just like insurance.
"Let's not talk about layoffs, because the layoff is coming from the same bunch that promised you a 28 percent reduction on your insurance."
Butler advised that residents should "hang on."
Mischler added, "All those people ran saying what they're going to do. Remember, they ran for their office. Let's see what's going to happen."
[Last modified May 1, 2007, 20:02:02]
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