tampabay.com

Leader's status, salary may spurt

Dunedin's boss wants the economic developer to lead a new department.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published May 15, 2007


DUNEDIN - The city manager will ask the City Commission Thursday to give Dunedin's economic development leader a new title, a new department and a 10 percent raise.

City Manager Robert DiSpirito's justification for hiking Robert Ironsmith's pay even as state lawmakers threaten to shrink local governments' property tax revenue: Dunedin needs to attract new business and housing options more than ever to expand Dunedin's tax base.

DiSpirito's plan, to be considered at Thursday's commission meeting, would create a Department of Economic and Housing Development - elevating the work Ironsmith, a 12-year city employee, has done for years as an assistant director in the Department of Community Services.

Ironsmith currently makes $95, 127. A 10 percent hike would boost that pay to $104, 640.

No additional staff will be immediately added to the department. Ironsmith would continue to have the assistance of two people who currently work under him, a city employee and a person on contract.

Several members of the City Commission expressed support Monday for creating the new department, though opinions varied on raising Ironsmith's pay during a vulnerable time for city governments and their budgets.

"I have long felt and I've said this in commission meetings that economic development needs to get much more of a focus than it had in the past, " said commissioner Julie Scales. However, she said she was concerned about a salary increase.

Mayor Bob Hackworth said investing in Ironsmith will inevitably bring back a return.

"I think a bigger concern would be not paying attention to making sure we're retaining Mr. Ironsmith, " said Hackworth, who listed workforce housing and redeveloping the old Nielsen Media Research property as key priorities. "I think there's a lot of interest in him personally from other communities."

Vice mayor Deborah Kynes said the climate is "dicey" for raises this year but that she supports moving Ironsmith to the head of a new department.

"I think it's using a better term for a job description that really fits Bob Ironsmith's skills, " she said.

The Florida Legislature is scheduled to meet next month to consider dramatic property tax changes that could severely curtail the money local governments can collect.