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Sheriff's Office and Manatee BOCC Spar Over Budgeting


BRADENTON -- Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube returned to the Board of County Commissioners at a workshop Thursday for some unfinished business: getting adequate compensation for his deputies. Among the region's 15 agencies, Manatee's deputy pay sits at the bottom of the list. Steube says he's not shooting for the top, but somewhere near the middle sure would be fine. At its final budget hearing last summer, the commission voted to spend $3.15 million in health care savings on pay compression issues, though the Sheriff had said he needed much more after having cut nearly $5 million over the 4 previous years. 

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"We train them and they go somewhere else to work." Steube also said, "Hillsborough County has 300 openings. Now I'm not saying they are all going there, but some will."

Steube came armed with Carolyn Long, Senior Vice-President of Management Advisory Group Inc. (MAG) who very methodically described the realities of Steube's responsibility.

Long's presentation included data which clearly defined the inequities of an MCSO deputy when compared to other surrounding areas. 

Back in September of 2012, Manatee County Commissioners voted to add $1.7 million to the Sheriff's share of Healthcare savings from its switch to Aetna, a total of almost $3.2 to deal with certified deputy pay increases to be used to address compression, but the Sheriff had asked for $5.5 million. 

Back then, Sheriff Steube said he was running on empty, after having cut his budget by almost $5 million over the previous four years. He says the woes, from not getting what he really needed then, haven't gone away.

The MAG report's goal was to find the path that would allow MCSO to effectively compete for quality personnel to deliver Law Enforcement Services now and in the future; and equitably compensate existing staff.

The report found MCSO was five percent behind the midpoint of the ranges of compensation in the region, and if the county were to provide that five percent compensation increase, MCSO deputies would be making competitive midpoint compensation; in a 2011 market. 

That would take somewhat more than the $3 million, and to keep that status through 2013, somewhat near $5 million.

MCSO has cut their fleet, their staff, sold equipment and if they get any closer to the bone, Steube says he "will start losing deputies."

But that doesn't stop Commissioners from pointing to their own withered budgets, reciting the same song they have been forced to sing to nearly every one who asks.

Recently Manatee County employees stood before the commission, pleading for their overall compensation to quit dropping, while EMS workers have made pleas for a living wage.

Commissioner Benac repeatedly asked the Sheriff to specify what he would need to allow him proper compensation. Each time, an obviously irritated Steube would reply, "What I need sits before you" pointing to the report. 

The commissioners said they needed time to digest what was diagramed in the presentation. They also agreed to take the issue up in another workshop where they could crunch some numbers and exchange some ideas.

The Sheriff told the commission he would present them with an itemized list that validates all of what he is asking for, by June of this year.   

Commissioners Gallen and DiSabatino reinforced their prior claims, that they will not kick the issue down the road, and expressed the need to have equitable compensation for their law enforcement.


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