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Hey, you forgot us! (But don't tell anybody)

By SCOTT BARANCIK

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


Shortly after a list of Pinellas Park's biggest employers appeared in the Times recently, two local companies -- Collegiate Funding Services LLC and Transitions Optical Inc. -- called to complain they'd been mistakenly omitted. But it seems the omissions were largely their own doing.

Occupational license applications filed with the city of Pinellas Park were the basis for the top-employers list. The forms showed Collegiate had 30 employees, not the 358 the company now claims. Transitions was pegged at 140 workers, not 466.

Why were the city's figures so inaccurate? Pinellas Park officials say it's because the two companies failed to provide them with updated head counts over the years, as required by local ordinance. For example, the figure for Transitions, a Delaware company that adds a light-sensitive tint to eyeglasses, was based on its original 1991 application. It's not alone. Assistant city manager Mike Gustafson said few companies voluntarily update their employee count.

It might help if the city's annual license renewal form asked applicants for the information, but it doesn't. Nor does the city make a practice of calling local companies for updates.

There's a bit more at stake than the accuracy of a list. Occupational license fees in Pinellas Park are partly based on a company's head count and the size of its facility. If Collegiate had provided accurate information to the city, its 2001 license fee would have been $980, not the $350 it paid, occupational license director Patrick Murphy said. Transitions' fee would have been $2,200, not the $1,000 it paid.

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