Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Panel Cuts Jobs, Programs; Rescinds Utility Fee

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Panel Cuts Jobs, Programs; Rescinds Utility Fee

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- St. Johns County commissioners rescinded a

franchise utility fee yesterday and made sweeping cuts to

administrative jobs and county programs to make up for the lost

revenue.

The cuts came despite warnings that the commission was moving

too quickly without considering the consequences for the rapidly

growing county's future.

To make up for the $1.3 million to be lost by revoking the fee,

commissioners eliminated the county jobs of public works

director, two assistant administrators, an assistant public

works director, a public information officer and a construction

manager.

One of the assistant county administrators is expected to be

transferred and the construction manager had planned to resign

next year.

Other cuts included the elimination of a volunteer program, and

reductions in money for roads maintenance, library books,

consulting services, leasing programs and a sea turtle education

program. Jobs that were to be filled were also chopped.

Program cuts will take place immediately but County

Administrator Nicholas Meiszer has until Feb. 3 to eliminate

jobs that are filled now.

The $1.3 million that will be saved will come in large part

from the county's $48 million general fund.

The 3 percent utility franchise fee, which was passed last

month and would have taken effect in January, would have

required power companies to pay to run lines in county

easements.

But four county commissioners elected last month vowed during

their campaigns to rescind the fee, saying its costs would be

passed on to consumers.

The vote to rescind the fee was unanimous but two commissioners

-- Marc Jacalone and Joanne Cody -- voted against the cuts.

Jacalone, one of four new commissioners elected in November,

endorsed rescinding the fee but proposed alternatives to the

plan in an effort to save the existing jobs.

"The way that we don't want to do it is disrupt the service of

this county," said Jacalone. …

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