In a 4-1 vote on Monday, Aug. 20, the Sarasota County Commission approved a $1,000 one-time pay boost to the county’s non-union employees, a move promoted strongly by Sarasota County Administrator Randy Reid.
Warning that Sarasota County is in danger of having its most talented employees “recruited from us,” Reid pushed for the payment again Monday during a budget workshop, noting that some non-union workers have not seen a pay raise in five years.
“I do want to point out that by giving a lump sum annual wage payment — which would be made likely right after the beginning of the fiscal year — when that is done, should the economy tank in future years, you’ve only given the amount of money for one year,” Reid told the commission. “It is not rolled into the salary. It doesn’t become collectively added on each year automatically.”
Reid also pointed out that many local public entities — including the School Board, the City of Venice and neighboring counties — have offered bonuses of some type. According to a PowerPoint presentation Reid shared with the commission, the total cost of the payment would be $1.5 million. The commissioners themselves, as well as executive directors and high-level employees, will all be excluded.
Commissioner Joe Barbetta eventually moved for a vote to approve the increase, with a quick second from Commissioner Jon Thaxton.
“I think the case has been established by Mr. Reid,” Barbetta argued. “This engine of the county shows up every day and works hard. A great majority of our employees work extremely hard, above and beyond what most do in both the public and private sector. I think it’s going to be looked at on the outside as not a good time to do this, but I think we’re in a competitive situation. I think we have to protect our employees and reward them. It’s a one-time thing.”
Thaxton argued that he was scared of the private sector luring away talented workers, as it did during the county’s boom years.
Commissioner Christine Robinson was the only official to oppose the measure.
“My heart wants to do this, wants to vote for this,” she said, “but my head is telling me something different.” While tax projections show good news for the county’s bottom line, she said, the numbers still show a decline, no matter how slight. “I don’t deny a thing that anyone’s said [about the value of the county employees], and I actually agree with all of it,” she said, “but what’s guiding me in this is the negative number that we are currently still in, and I just can’t get past that.”
“On behalf of the employees, thank you,” Reid said, once the measure had passed.