Big bounce

Talk about a short honeymoon, The ink is barely dry on the contract Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker signed with the county commission and she already finds herself with a controversy on her hands. At issue is Baker's proposed fiscal 2014 county budget proposal, which would set aside money to give most county employees a 3 percent pay raise. Pasco Fire Rescue personnel, however, would only get a 1.5 percent raise under Baker's budget, which the county commission must approve.Pasco officials, in discussing the pay-raise disparity, have noted that fire rescue personnel received 5 percent raises in 2009 and 2011 but other county employees have had their salaries frozen since 2008. The fire union counters it agreed last year, while John Gallagher was still county administrator, to drop a labor grievance against the county it had a good chance of winning in exchange for an assurance fire rescue workers would get a 3 percent pay raise in 2014. Former Pasco Fire Chief Tony Lopinto this week urged the county to end its "vendetta" against fire rescue personnel and give them a 3 percent raise, too.Baker says another reason for the proposed the smaller raise is that the fire department has had to tap reserve funds the last six years to stay out of the red, a situation she wasn't told about until May.Baker admits she "dropped the ball" because she did not warn union leaders she planned to recommend the smaller raises for fire rescue employees. Such candor is admirable in a public official, but we hope she doesn't have many other opportunities to appear noble.
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