MANATEE — Opposition among county commissioners to a proposed sheriff’s surtax and to a newly created management job with Manatee County government could derail the county’s entire budget proposal.
Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash has threatened to vote against the $485 million spending plan if it contains funding for the organizational development manager position awarded to David Klement, the Bradenton Herald’s former editorial page editor.
Such a move, according to Commissioner Carol Whitmore, would jeopardize the budget as three other commissioners already voted against the spending plan because it includes the sheriff’s surtax.
“If McClash changes his vote, and he’s the one who proposed the sheriff’s surtax, it could be 4-3 the other way,” Whitmore said.
Whitmore, Commission Chairman Donna Hayes and Commissioner John Chappie voted against the surtax, which would raise $2.3 million to allow the sheriff’s office to cover a Florida Legislature mandate for an increase in the state pension fund and other expected budget shortfalls.
Manatee County Commission will hold the first of two public hearings on the county’s property tax millage rate and annual budget proposals at 6 p.m. today at commission chambers on the first floor of the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W.
According to the proposals, Manatee County taxpayers will pay $6.3993 for every $1,000 of assessed property value to help fund the spending plan. Compared to last year’s millage rate, the surtax adds 10 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
On Wednesday, McClash sent a letter to Jim Seuffert, the county’s financial management director, asking for help finding the budget line item that contains Klement’s $80,017 salary.
“I will not approve a budget that has this position in it,” McClash’s letter to Seuffert read. “So many people lost jobs these past few years and we give a job to a person that has two retirement incomes and did not follow the normal hiring process. At a cost of $100,000 a year, we could pay half of the trolley on Longboat Key or restore other needed services.”
County Administrator Ed Hunzeker hired Klement without advertising the position. He said Klement’s position replaces an information outreach manager job that has been eliminated. Klement started his new job Monday.
Later Wednesday, McClash said he understood the ramifications of voting against the budget plan. He said if he votes no, the commission’s vote will end up 4-3 against the budget even if it doesn’t contain the sheriff’s surtax, because that would likely lead the other commissioners to switch.
“I can do the math,” McClash said. “Basically, it would be no action either way. There would have to be a compromise. I’m not ready to vote for a fabricated position.”