PALM HARBOR – Despite tight budgets in recent years, the staff for both the Palm Harbor and East Lake libraries have received raises this year.
The Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, which oversees both libraries, approved a 3 percent increase for all Palm Harbor Library staff Oct. 17. The raises came in conjunction with a yearlong training program, designed to increase technology and Web-based knowledge for each employee.
In preparation of the new training, the library underwent evaluations Oct. 5, giving them new professional development objectives to complete throughout the year, explained library Assistant Director Lois Eannel.
The increase and the library’s new policy change – giving evaluations at the start of the fiscal year in October rather than at employees’ anniversary dates of employment – prompted a debate among the agency board Oct. 17.
“I think we’ve opened up a can of worms,” commented board member Marcus Harrison.
Eannel explained that the timing of the evaluations allowed each employee an equal amount of time to meet the new standards the library wanted of them.
“You couldn’t do a review of someone in May and expect them to complete all the (same) webinars and necessary training in three or four months that someone has had a whole year to do,” she said. “So that is why we decided to do them all at the same time.”
Also discussed was the fact that this year’s pay raise was not merit-based.
“No one’s had a raise in so many years that this made it fair across the board that everyone received an increase at the same time,” Eannel said.
Funds for the pay increase at Palm Harbor Library came from an increase in the tax rate for the Palm Harbor special taxing district, approved by Pinellas County commissioners this year at the request of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, or PHCSA.
Agency Chairman Rex Haslam pointed out to the PHCSA board that employees at East Lake library also received a 3 percent raise at the start of the budget year Oct. 1. The board approved the increase during its September meeting, but some members expressed surprise that included in that was a raise for East Lake library Director Patricia Perez, prior to her own evaluation.
“(It) is a little unusual for the director to get an increase without a review in the past, but it had been so long since anybody got a real merit increase,” Haslam said.
Perez said she was unaware of the policy that states directors receive an increase based on their review. Both the PHCSA board and the library’s respective advisory board participate in the review process, which occurs on the anniversary date of their hire. Perez’s anniversary is Sept. 14, but her review is still forthcoming.
In fact, PHCSA policy states that every employee receive a potential raise on the anniversary date of their hire, said PHCSA Administrative Coordinator Mary Mason.
“You’ve been doing it since you’ve been here,” she told Perez. “They’re reviewed on their anniversary. If it’s in the budget and they’re eligible, then they get an increase.”
Erica Lynford, director of Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation, the third entity overseen by the PHCSA board, pointed out that she hadn’t given across-the-board increases at the start of the year.
“I had been going on what had been happening for that last nine years I’ve been here,” she said. “I knew nothing that was occurring at the libraries.”
Lynford questioned whether the policy would be changed going forward. Perez pointed out that the only reason the increase occurred was because the library had extra funds due to the departure of a longtime staff member.
“They took that income and those hours and divvied them out among several people,” Haslam later reminded the board. “They don’t have any magic money coming in either.”
The raise for Palm Harbor Director Gene Coppola did come in conjunction with his annual review, which the board discussed Oct. 17.
“Gene’s review was pretty outstanding, so we were real happy with it,” board member Sharon Pikulinski said.
She said that the PHCSA board members involved in his review and the library’s advisory board recommended a 3 percent raise for Coppola. The motion for the raise was unanimously approved.
Both Coppola and Perez accounted for their respective raises in their budgets this year.
Haslam said the board could revisit the issue at a later meeting, after Perez’s review was completed.
“Whatever works best,” Perez said.
“Just for the record, consistency works best, from the administrative standpoint,” Mason said. “The more alike we can do it, the better.”