SEBRING — Sebring Planning Director Jim Polatty’s vacation may end with an unwelcome surprise.
During a budget workshop Thursday night, the Sebring City Council agreed Polatty’s position would be eliminated in next year’s budget. That means Polatty will not have a job as of Oct. 1.
As of Saturday, city officials were unable to contact Polatty regarding the decision.
The elimination of his position comes during work on a budget that involves making up a decline in property tax revenues by transferring $800,000 from the city’s reserve fund to the general fund.
The general fund will be reduced from $9.9 million to $9.5 million with the tax rate remaining the same.
While the City Council pressed department heads to cut their budget requests, council members favored providing merit increases up to 2.3 percent for employees, the same amount approved for this year’s budget. This past year, employees received varying percentages of pay increases based on evaluations.
Councilman John Griffin said during the past several years for the most part the city did not provide raises to employees. In some cases, the employees got bonuses, and one year they got neither, he said.
As for Polatty, Griffin said, he questioned the timing of the decision, but joined other council members in voting in favor of the recommendation from Councilman Scott Stanley, who is the council’s liaison to the planning department.
Stanley said he felt the city doesn’t need a full time planning director and the city could save money by contracting for planning services from the Central Florida Planning Council.
City Administrator Scott Noethlich said Polatty earns over $80,000 annually, including salary and benefits. The planning council will charge about $20,000 a year to provide services, he said. Noethlich said the city has a relatively small time window in which to approve a budget.
Council members also saved money in the budget by reducing the Police Department’s request for new vehicles from three to two and not allowing the department to fill a vacant position.
Other departments also agreed to a variety of cuts.
Stanley suggested reducing the five employees in the finance department, but other council members did not favor that.