Sheriff could say no, if he wants
One other thing about the sheriff’s pay raise and then I’ll let it go.
It’s been bugging me how I missed that Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s budget to the county commission included a brand new $24,000 pay raise given to him by the state, and not the sheriff simply boosting pay on his own.
Here’s how: There is no way most people would know about this state-approved pay raise amount unless they stumbled on it, like I did on Wednesday.
The Citrus County administration didn’t know. Commissioners didn’t know. Our state legislator who voted for the bill that contains the pay raises didn’t know the true amount.
Prendergast obviously knew, but it’s uncertain whether he planned to share that with the Citrus County public. His agency’s explanation to me regarding the sheriff’s salary lacked that vital detail as well.
Let me guide you through it.
I first heard commissioners say during the June 14 board meeting that the sheriff was asking for more in salary than what the state compensation chart allowed.
The state sets salaries for constitutional officers. The current salary for Citrus County sheriff is $146,033, plus another $2,000 the sheriff receives annually for passing certification, for a total $148,033.
When Prendergast presented a 2022-23 budgeted salary of $181,926, it raised more than a few eyebrows.
The county expected a much smaller ask — $5,000 more, as reflected in HB 3. The bill, which has money for incentives to attract law enforcement officers to Florida, for some odd reason included a pay raise for elected sheriffs. It added $5,000 to the “base pay,” a term that will mean more in just a moment.
When I asked the sheriff’s office to confirm the $181,926 budgeted is salary for the sheriff, this was the response from agency spokeswoman Brittney Carman:
“You are reading that information correctly. The $181,926 listed for executive salaries in the budget represents the Sheriff’s salary.”
“Just to help you understand the breakdown of this salary, section 145.071, F.S., provides a schedule for calculating the salary of each sheriff by this statutory formula. This salary estimate is also reflective of the impact of section 2 of CS/HB 3 amending the salaries of county sheriffs.”:
Sorry to bore you with that jargon, but it’s important.
The statute references how salaries of elected sheriffs are calculated each year. The email’s last sentence refers to the recent specific bill that raised their pay. Surely details of this pay raise would be found in the bill, right? Wrong.
Nowhere does HB 3 it say sheriffs are receiving a $23,595 pay raise. It says their “base pay” is rising $5,000, followed by the math calculation that will lead me to a real number. The bill doesn’t reveal that number, only the complex maze to find it.
Which, coincidentally, is $23,595 for every sheriff in the state. For the Citrus County sheriff, that’s a 16.2% pay bump three months before the new government year starts.
I only know the true amount because of discovering this addendum to the current pay chart. That’s it. That’s the only scrap of paper I could find associated with HB 3 that actually states the pay raise totals.
Just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, I asked Rep. Ralph Massullo about it. He also thought the bill raised pay for sheriffs by $5,000, not $23,595.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on April 1. The sheriff pay raises go into effect July 1 and the pay is likely going up again Oct. 1 based solely on population increases. Prendergast is expecting more; he budgeted his salary up to $10,000 higher than the new pay.
Now what? I have a suggestion but it probably won’t play well in the Prendergast household.
He can refuse the special raise that resulted from HB 3. This is $23,595 of unearned pay. It’s a gift-wrapped bonus to the boss in a time when he is rightly demanding pay raises for his deputies, dispatchers and others who are trying to earn a living.
Seems those folks should be first in line for any big pay day.
Sheriff Prendergast would show true humility and community leadership by telling the state no thanks, he has better use for that money.
His people who need it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.