MANATEE -- They laughed. They cried. They complained.
At a Manatee County Commission listening session Thursday, a standing-room-only crowd of employees discussed discouragement, pay inequities and even bankruptcy and foreclosure resulting from paychecks that have thinned over six years.
Due to cost-of-living increases, even with a 3 percent raise for most employees last year, workers have had to fight for loan modifications on their mortgages, with some enduring foreclosure, said Carla Poissant, who works in public safety.
At tax time, she was dismayed to see she had earned $2,000 less this year than last, due to increases in retirement contributions, insurance costs and Social Security hikes.
As if that wasn't enough, the county's new third-party health insurer, Aetna, dragged its feet on tests her doctor had ordered, problems she had never had before, she told commissioners.
A custodial supervisor said three of her staff members work part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Paula Pesmark, who works in property management, reminded commissioners that her team picks up human fe
ces, cleans vomit and broken glass from the buildings and even keeps holding cells clean at the Manatee County Judicial Center.
"Think about the cost-of-living," she advised.
Others complained about skimping on groceries or driving old cars, difficulty in paying for college for their kids, saving for retirement, and poor morale and lack of recognition for the work they do.
Billy Pinkston, who works in utilities, noted he takes care of 2,500 miles of water pipes for a living.
He was clearly miffed about a $34,720.20 annual raise the board gave to County Administrator Ed Hunzeker last month when it approved a new, $203,845 contract, keeping the county's chief on past his announced retirement date.
"What makes him deserving, if the rest of us don't get anything?" Pinkston asked to cheers and clapping.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.