NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco is asking for a $5 million budget increase for next year, with more than half going to give employees pay raises for the second year in a row.
Nocco released his $96.4 million budget proposal Friday afternoon, calling it a first step away from years of austerity and toward making Pasco a premier county.
“This budget attempts to bring the (sheriff’s office) more in line with other agencies in terms of how we compensate our people,” Nocco wrote in a letter to county commissioners.
Last year Nocco submitted a $93 million budget, but commissioners approved $91 million — which included an across-the-board 3-percent pay raise for all employees. It was the first pay adjustment in six years, but Nocco said it offered little incentive for experienced officers to stay with the department.
For fiscal 2015, Nocco wants to give employees a 1-percent salary adjustment for each year of service, capped at 5 percent.
“The advantage to this approach is that it begins to address the salary compression issues that have compounded over the last several years,” Nocco wrote. “We have members who have been deputies since 2008 making almost the same as deputies who just started in March.”
Nocco also requested a $333,460 increase for his overtime budget and $200,000 for maintenance and repairs to the department’s helicopter.
In the last year, Nocco hired an outside company to take over nursing duties at the jail. He’s also shifting duties, such as prisoner transport, to the private sector, resulting in 87 fewer positions.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri wondered why the sheriff needs such a large budget increase. “That’s a lot of money,” Mulieri said. “He’s doing all this outsourcing - where are the savings from that?”
County Administrator Michele Baker said the request didn’t come as a surprise. “We’ve had some really good meetings with his staff, so we knew to expect this,” she said. “We know we need to do something after such a long drought for employee pay raises.”
The county is currently in bargaining with the firefighters unions and the Teamsters Local 79, which represents another 1,000 plus county workers. “We’re all waiting for the result of our salary study,” Baker said. “We also have to plan for the other constitutional officers - I know they want to take care of their employees, too.”
Commissioners should have more money to work with this year, since Property Appraiser Mike Wells has estimated the county’s tax roll grew by 4-percent this year. But Baker said the county’s finance staff hasn’t determined how that will affect the amount property tax revenue going into the county’s general fund.
Commissioner Ted Schrader said he wants to take care of employees, but that isn’t his only priority — especially since the county was forced to raise property taxes last year. “We need to consider the taxpayers, too,” he said. “I hope to be able to provide some taxpayer relief this year.”