County government job openings climb over past three months
Faced with a tight job market, Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis is considering 6% pay raises for non-bargaining employees during the 2023 fiscal year, after acting this spring to bring low-level staff members’ pay up to $15 an hour, he has told the County Commission.
“We had a lot of library employees way below the $15 an hour mark,” he pointed out on June 23, during the board’s budget workshop. He made the pay adjustment in April, he said.
The 6% would be broken down as 4% for merit raises and a general 2% salary adjustment, he explained. He might award half of the 2% adjustment at the beginning of the next fiscal year — which will start on Oct. 1 — and then provide the second 1% uptick halfway through the new fiscal year, he added.
Previously, Lewis noted, the merit pay increase was 3%, and he generally would implement a 1% salary adjustment at some point during the fiscal year.
In years past, Commissioner Nancy Detert pointed out, people perceived government employment as providing long-term job security and retirement funds. However, a person typically could earn a bigger salary in the private sector, she noted. “I think the younger people are shorter-term thinkers,” Detert added.
“It’s very competitive for retention and recruitment,” she acknowledged.
“I think, as a board, we need to think a little higher when it comes to salaries, to get people,” Detert continued. “Supremely qualified people” will be harder to attract to county positions, she said; yet, those are the types of individuals the county traditionally has hired.
Having worked with county employees for the past 38 years, Chair Alan Maio said — referring to his position with the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota as well as to his holding the District 4 board seat since November 2018 — he always felt three primary reasons existed for people to work in local government jobs:
- The health and welfare benefits package.
- The pension.
- “There is an esprit de corps of people who want to work for the government, building the community and providing services.”
The county’s Human Resources Department staff members “have really excelled” with recruitment, Lewis told the commissioners. For example, he pointed out, the department has used job fairs to seek new employees.
The Public Utilities Department, Lewis noted, “is maybe our biggest hirer.”
One big change staff has seen, Lewis said, is “We can’t wait three or four or five days — forget weeks — to give job offers.” If people come in for an interview, he continued, and the person handling that interview decides the individual is a good candidate for the position, the job offer has to be made at that time.
Lewis also pointed out that staff has been providing the commissioners updates on open county positions.
In response to a Sarasota News Leader public records request for copies of those reports, the publication received documents for April, May and June. The News Leaderhad requested the past four reports, as of early July. However, Kim Francel, the public records coordinator, told the publication that the Human Resources Department staff had indicated to her that “[T]here are only three.”
In April, that report showed, the county had a total of 141 job openings. The highest number was for the Public Utilities Department: 23. The Public Works Department was in second place, with 20, while the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department had 18. The Capital Projects and Planning and Development Services departments both had 12.
Capital Projects, whose director is Carolyn Eastwood, is responsible for working on new construction of county facilities, including the planned North County Administration Center on Fruitville Road, which will replace the building standing at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.
By the time of the May report, that document showed, 154 positions were open. Again, the highest total was for Public Utilities — 25 — followed by 23 openings for Public Works and 20 for Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources.
Two of the open positions in Capital Projects had been filled, that spreadsheet noted, leaving 10 open. However, the total for Planning and Development had climbed to 17.
Then, by the end of June, the number of positions needing to be filled had jumped to 173, that document said. Public Utilities was seeking 26 employees; Public Works, 23. The Emergency Services — which includes the Sarasota County Fire Department — was looking for 22 new staff members.
The Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources openings were down to 18, and the Capital Projects total had fallen to nine.
However, Libraries and Historical Resources was seeking 19 new employees, the list noted, while Planning and Development still had 17 open positions.
On the morning of July 11, when the News Leader checked on positions being advertised on the county website, it found a list of 110. Among those were the following:
- Hazardous waste technician for the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility.
- Adult services librarian at the Fruitville Library.
- Fire safety inspector.
- Industrial treatment plant maintenance technician.
- Permitting coordinator.
- Park Planning and Development Division manager.
- Fire Code plans examiner.
- Beach attendant at Siesta Key and Lido beaches.
Among those posted more than 30 days prior to July 11 were as follows:
- Manager at Selby Public Library in downtown Sarasota.
- Procurement professional who can handle bid solicitations.
- Long-range planner with expertise in urban and regional planning.
- Water treatment plant operator.
- Trial court staff attorney.
- Building plans examiner.
- Heavy truck/equipment technician.