Fort Pierce mayor Bob Benton has defended the city when it comes to handing out holiday bonuses to its employees for the previous two years while both St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie have not, according to TCPalm.
“I don’t mind taking the heat for it one way or the other,” Benton said Wednesday. “We just wanted to say thank you.”
A $100 holiday bonus was recently approved by city commissioners for each city employee, which comes to a total of $35,100. This approval comes during another year of cutbacks for the city that included foreclosures and very high unemployment rates across the country. With the approval of the bonuses, each department within the city will cover the bonuses for its employees. The mayor and the city commissioners also received the bonuses.
The general fund comes from taxpayer money, and it covers the departments of city manager, the city attorney, and the police force. The general fund paid out a total of $27,600 for the bonuses. The departments that are not covered by the fund include those of building, the golf course, and solid waste. These departments paid out $7,500 in bonuses for their employees.
Benton approached city manager David Recor about the bonuses, requesting them for a second consecutive year. Benton also said that he has not received any complaints against the bonuses yet. Benton also said that the $100 bonuses are not a large amount.
Benton did say that city employees have taken furloughs the previous two years, which resulted in the employees taking a pay cut of five percent. This is unlike the workers in St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie.
“I just feel they worked very hard, and they earned it,” Benton said. “It was a tough year for everyone.”
The city gave its employees gift cards to Publix in the past, but Benton said that money would be of more use for the families of those employees during the holiday season.
Gloria Johnson, the finance director for the city, wrote a letter to the commissioners that stated the following about the bonuses:
“The economic hardships that many of our employees are facing, and that fact that they have had to do more with less. This is a small token to show management’s appreciation and feel that it will help spread some holiday cheer,” she wrote.
According to spokesman Erick Gill of St. Lucie County, the employees there have not received their checks of $50 since 2009.
“Because (county commissioners) had to reduce staff, consolidate departments and make other tough decisions regarding the reduction of services because of the decrease in property values, which (led) to a loss of revenue for the county,” wrote Gill via email on Wednesday, “it didn’t make sense to continue offering holiday bonuses.”