Sarasota County Government job vacancies still averaging in range of 100 at any given time, county administrator says

Turnover rate 17.7% for this fiscal year so far

This slide provides details about job changes in the various Sarasota County departments. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On a number of occasions in recent years — especially in the context of affordable housing discussions — Sarasota County commissioners have commented on local business’ efforts to hire and retain employees.

However, the commissioners seldom offer comments on county employee vacancies.

Typically, the only remarks about county workers come during budget discussions. For example, in late June, when they conducted their primary workshops regarding the proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year — which will begin on Oct. 1 — County Administrator Jonathan Lewis presented them slides showing that preliminary plans called for a total of 2,490 full-time county department employees, up 1.4% from the 2023 adopted budget figure of 2,456.

Yet another slide said that the number of full-time county employees (FTEs) per capita had fallen from 6.39 in the 2007 fiscal year to 5.36 in FY 2023, with that level predicted to stay the same in FY 2024. In the 2022 fiscal year, the number was 5.25, the slide showed.

In response to a Sarasota News Leader question, Genevieve Judge, the county’s new public information and community outreach manager, wrote in an Aug. 22 email that staff had told her that the proposed, 2024 fiscal year budget documents were still being updated, following an Aug. 8 County Commission budget workshop. “Until the budget is adopted during the Second/Final Budget Public hearing [in late September],” those staff members added, “the FTE count is subject to change.”

This graph, provided in the agenda packet for the June budget workshops, shows the trend in the number of county employees per capita. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As for the vacancy issue: Lewis sent the commissioners an email on Aug. 17, explaining that he recently had received a question about that.

“As you know,” he continued, “we have discussed multiple times at budget workshops [that] we typically run about 100 vacancies. Which is where we are right now. Some of those are held intentionally until the [department] director is ready to hire others,” he added, while other department chiefs undertake active recruiting “even prior to a vacancy occurring. It runs the gamut.”

Then Lewis pointed out, “The [commission] has given me what I need as the county administrator to deal with retention and recruitment for our nonunion positions. We do very well in those areas. Staff routinely looks at our compensation level to make sure we are neither too high nor too low in the market. We also have done compensation studies and adjust compensation accordingly.

“Of course,” Lewis continued, “there are positions covered by collective bargaining agreements and those agreements dictate the terms of compensation.

“My leadership team meets routinely to review vacancies and hires,” he added. “Part of that is to ensure we are taking all reasonable steps to deal with our staffing needs. I thought you might be interested so I have attached an example of a presentation we review.”

Among those slides, one showed that, as of 4 p.m. on July 25, the county had 111 job openings. During July, the slide also noted, 27 new county employees were hired, with another seven in the process of joining the staff.

This graph shows details about the reasons for county employees leaving their positions this fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Turnover among county employees was 17.7% for the fiscal year through July 25, another slide indicated; that compared to a slightly higher figure — 17.32% — for the prior year at the same time.

A bar graph included among the slides did show, however, that from July 2022 through June of this year, June was the only month with fewer employee vacancies than the same month in the 2022.

For example, in October 2022, the county had 311 job openings, compared to 222 for that month in 2021. The count for November 2022 vacancies was 309, compared to 220 in November 2021.

The month with the fewest vacancies was August 2022, when the tally was 218. That number compared to 214 in August 2021.

Yet another slide said that the total number of terminations was higher by 15 in June of this year, compared to the figure for June 2022. The total this June was 37. Additionally, the tally of terminations for this fiscal year through June was 288, which was up by 11, compared to the same period of the 2022 fiscal year.

The month with the largest number of terminations for that period was October 2022, a slide said. Of those, 11 people were dismissed, 37 resigned and three retired. The month with the next highest number of employee separations was March of this year, with 30 resignations, five dismissals and seven retirements.

Conversely, 327 more employees had been hired this fiscal year through late July than during the same period of the previous fiscal year, when the figure was 269.

This slide compares numbers of county vacancies over the past couple of years. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The month with the largest tally of new employees coming on board was January, with 77. April had the second highest count: 46.

A chart also showed that, in June of this year, the only county department with no vacancies was the University of Florida/Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension service (UF/IFAS). On the other hand, the Communications Department had a 19% vacancy rate in June, while the rate in Public Works was 17.6%.

For further comparison purposes, a slide pointed out that, as of 4 p.m. on July 25, the state of Florida had an unemployment rate of 2.6%, while the county’s rate was 3%. Both the state and the county had 64 unemployed individuals per 100 jobs, the slide said.