LARGO - Largo's City Commission is in a spending mood.
But then, four members (including Mayor Pat Gerard) voted for a tax increase Tuesday night, thus ensuring a flow of cash from taxpayers.
In their largesse, six of the seven voted to give City Manager Steve Stanton a humoungus 12.5 percent pay increase.
Some fancy figure juggling was done to minimize the actual percentage increase in Stanton's pay.
Only Commissioner Mary Black voted against the huge raise.
Black was joined by Andy Guyette and Rodney Woods in holding out for a reduction in the millage rate to the rolled back figure, but the spenders - Gerard, Crozier, Gentry and Arntzen were all for reaching city hands deep into the pockets of Largo taxpayers.
Stanton's base pay in 2006 is $124,000.
A performance increase of 4 percent is laid down as a predicate for Stanton's salary in the 2007 budget. That would bring the base compensation to $128,960 ($4,960 increase) - not counting, of course, his $4,800 vehicle allowance, $1,200 pocket money allowance, 12 percent retirement contribution along with other perks.
All of that would bring the total compensation package, based on cash and not counting insurance benefits, a lap top, and other non-cash items, to $150,432.
In the memo accompanying the Stanton pay item, purportedly prepared by Mayor Pat Gerard, the 4 percent performance increase is taken as a given and then added to.
With $128,960 assumed as the base pay, another $5159 is added on as a performance increase and cited as 4 percent, when actually it is slightly more and something called a "market adjustment," cited as 4.75 percent, that is $6,115, brings Stanton's base pay to $140,234.
Actually, the "market adjustment" is 5 percent of his current base pay. The difference is accounted for because a base pay of $128,960, not yet approved, is assumed.
The net effect of this playing with the numbers is, of course, designed to lower percentage rates. But what do percentage rates mean when the public can look at plain old dollars, and where they are going.
If the 2007 recommended pay package is approved by the commission, Stanton's base pay goes from $124,000 to $140,234. That's a raise of $312 a week. Not bad.
Although the memo is submitted in Gerard's name, Stanton worked up the smoke and mirror figures. Of course, the two are close as peas in a pod so what Stanton wants his willing myrmidon will carry out.
With a new base pay of $140,234, Stanton's total cash compensation package goes to $163,062 - up 12.5 percent.
This is the true increase, not the 8.4 percent total increase the smoke and mirror figures would have one believe.
Another question hovering on the lips of close observers of the Largo scene is the radical change that has taken place on the city's web site.
The site lists, among other things, the commission's agenda with supplementing memos and so forth.
These are usually listed as PDF files separately.
In the most recent version, everything is lumped into a single PDF file which turns out to be 199 pages long.
The suggestion to many observers is that this is designed to confuse and conceal and discourage any examination in detail of what the commission agenda is.
For many computer users, who do not have high speed capability, downloading a monster file like that can take a very long time.
And then one would have to plod through it, a very tedious task indeed.
Why the obfuscation? Obviously, what the public does not know or can't find out won't hurt anyone at city hall.
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