Pubdate: Sat, 14 Jul 2007
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Palm Beach Post
Note: Does not publish letters from writers outside area
Author: Paul Quinlan, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara sent a $62.4 million proposed
budget to county commissioners Friday, a 5 percent increase from last

The plan calls for selling the helicopter the sheriff's office uses to
evacuate trauma patients - a $1.8 million savings - and provides money
to boost department salaries.

Mascara said deputies were "grossly underpaid" compared with
counterparts in the Treasure Coast. "This budget addresses some of
that inequity while still meeting the county's budget goal for the
sheriff's office," he wrote. He declined further comment until he
meets with commissioners to discuss the proposal next week.

Mascara's $136,541 salary would not change under the proposal. The
proposal calls for spending $15.6 million on salaries, up 11 percent
from last year's $14 million.

The budget eliminates $6,000 provided last year for education and
seminars. It also cuts back on meals and lodging.

Despite pressure to cut spending in the wake of the tax reforms handed
down from Tallahassee, Mascara drew up the latest budget with an eye
toward attaining equitable wages for all of the department's
employees, he wrote.

"My budget proposal will not make my employees the highest paid law
enforcement personnel on the Treasure Coast," Mascara wrote, "but the
proposed pay structure will at least put them in the ballpark with
regard to the salaries paid to other agencies in our area."

The plan includes no money for new vehicles, equipment or other
capital expenses. The budget also cuts the cost of running the
department by 3 percent.

Mascara first submitted a 2007-08 budget request of $64.5 million,
then boosted it to $67.8 million after County Administrator Doug
Anderson asked him to continue operating the helicopter and pay for
half the cost of school resource officers.

Anderson later asked the sheriff to trim it to a 5 percent increase,
based on an expected $15 million drop in property tax revenue as a
result of the tax reforms the state legislature passed in June.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath