LARGO - Largo's city commissioners are immersed now in constructing the city's budget for fiscal year 2007 that begins October 1 and among the items under consideration is the status of City Manager Steve Stanton.
The results of the election in March solidified Stanton's position in terms of keeping his job. He frankly stated before the election that he feared he would be fired.
But the election of Pat Gerard as mayor and Gigi Arntzen and Rodney Woods as commissioners clinched Stanton's immediate future.
Up for talk now is what he will be paid.
Stanton now gets about $128,000 a year. Reports are that he wants an increase of 16 percent, which would bring his base pay near to $150,000. In dollars, the increase would be more than $20,000 - a raise of about $385 dollars a week would be pretty sporty.
On top of the base pay, the manager, now 13 years on the job, gets $400 a month car allowance, gets an additional mileage allowance for anything over 100 miles a month, receives $100 a month as "pocket money," is provided a city paid for lap top computer, a high speed internet connection at his residence, a cell phone, pager, plus all the other benefits - insurance, a 12 percent contribution by the city toward a pension fund.
In supporting his bid for an increase, Stanton has cited for comparison the pay earned by others around the state.
Were he to get the increase he wants, his salary would be about the same as what the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg make.
Tampa is four times the size of Largo and St. Petersburg is easily three times as large.
Some observers wonder if Stanton's pay range should be the same as those of these two big cities and also wonder what he might have done to earn such big bucks.
Even at a modest 6 percent increase over the years, Stanton's pay would double in 12 years. He is still a young man and a dozen years from now will still be in his 50s.
Like so many long term employees, Stanton is benefitting from yearly raises that inexorably raise the salary up, up, up. Very little thought is given to leveling off an executive, but facing an annual salary of a quarter of a million dollars might bring about some prudent leveling.
As to Stanton's performance, some have criticized the botching of the attempt to annex Cove Cay. The city made a very strong effort to do that, bringing Mayor Bob Jackson and the whole commission to Cove Cay one night long ago to try to sell the idea.
The plan went awry somewhere in city hall when one of Stanton's functionaries failed to perform some key and necessary acts to further the annexation.
Another failure was in the Wren's Way annexation.
Also cited are the legal problems that lead to a plethora of law suits. Alan Zimmet (he is the city's part time lawyer at $2,000-plus a week) funnels a lot of legal fees to his firm.
There is constant legal warfare with Pinellas County and the legal bills (most of them being paid to Zimmet & Co.) are substantial.
Even Gerard has noted that the city needs to be involved in fewer lawsuits. Even so, she gave the manager an excellent rating on his yearly review. Not surprising, given that the two are very close.
While Stanton seeks a large increase in pay, city fees for sewer service, trash pickup and reclaimed water are going up.
When the commission made an honest attempt last year to put a brake on rising taxes, Stanton put out a list of cuts that would have to be made that was designed as a political football.
His listing of services to be eliminated brought crowds to city hall protesting.
It turned out that all of that was a red herring - totally false. The programs mentioned would not have been affected.
In fact, the tax cut was made, some budget cuts (not of the variety Stanton sounded alarm bells over) were made and the city still wound up with a surplus in fiscal year 2006, just ending.
If the public ever gets heard on the raise Stanton proposes for himself, it ought to be interesting.
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