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Iorio cuts jobs to shift more funds to children

TAMPA - Less than three weeks after taking over the troubled Children's Board of Hillsborough County, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has moved to shrink the taxpayer-supported agency and redirect funding to front-line services. In two recent memorandums to the agency's board of directors, Iorio announced she was cutting 15 full-time positions and one temporary full-time slot, saving $1.4 million. The cuts will leave the Children's Board with about 40 employees. The jobs eliminated included the high-level posts of organizational development director, director of communications and board clerk, whose salaries totaled $408,453. Iorio said the savings will go toward the agency's primary mission of bettering the lives of the county's children.
"When I came onboard it was pretty clear (the board) wanted me to take a fresh look at the agency and change it for the better," Iorio said. "We really needed to focus on our mission, put more money into direct services for children and get the agency right-sized." Children's Board Chairman Chris Brown said he welcomes the cuts, noting that the agency has long been criticized for a bloated payroll. "Those were things we wanted as an agency to be part of our fiscal approach and I think that's what she doing," Brown said. "Her actions speak for what she saw." The Children's Board was created by taxpayers in 1988 and is supported by a property tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of a home's valuation. The board, which has a $35 million annual budget, distributes money to nonprofit groups who work on education, health care and social welfare for children. Before making the cuts, Iorio contrasted the Children's Board with tax-supported agencies in six other Florida counties that perform similar services. She found the Children's Board ranked last in the share of revenue invested in direct programs for children at 72.3 percent. The other counties' child welfare organizations spent 80 percent to 88 percent on direct services. What's more, the share of Children's Board revenue spent on salaries as a percent of budget was higher than the other six agencies. In a revised fiscal 2013 budget Iorio will present to the board Thursday, the share of revenue invested in direct child welfare programs will increase to 78.2 percent. Iorio said she also plans to end an arrangement with the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, a quasi-governmental, nonprofit agency that funnels state money into child care, education and after-school services. The Children's Board currently "leases" the learning coalition's employees so they can take part in the Florida Retirement System. Taking those employees and their $900,000 payroll off the Children's Board's books will increase the percentage of money going to direct programs to 80 percent. "Things like that are hard to explain and need to go away," Iorio said. "It doesn't help a small agency like us when we're trying to explain what we do to the public." Iorio took over at the Children's Board after former CEO Luanne Panacek resigned. Panacek lost board support after she acknowledged awarding four no-bid contracts totaling $450,000, including $50,000 to a former board employee. The final straw for Panacek was an outside audit that found the agency's organization was "marred in crisis" and its employees lacked confidence in the leadership.

msalinero@tampatrib.com (813) 259-8303

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