The Pensacola City Council’s staff payroll could exceed a quarter of a million dollars a year if council members vote Thursday to hire a fourth staffer.
Council president Gerald Wingate is asking his colleagues to approve the hire of Wilhelm “Butch” Hansen as the council’s “strategic budget planner.” Hansen is a retired U.S. Navy captain and the president of Pensacola’s Veterans Memorial Park Foundation. He’s also the husband of Lee Hansen, who was recently appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to fill a vacant seat on the Escambia County School Board.
The city charter which voters enacted in 2009 didn’t envision the city council having its own staff, but council members in 2014 pushed an amendment granting them that power. Voters narrowly approved the change, and since then, the council has hired three staffers — council executive Don Kraher and two administrative personnel — at a cost of $204,776 per year.
Now, some council members want to hire someone to help with the annual budget, despite the fact that the city’s finance department has two full-time budget staffers. Hansen would earn $40 per hour in what’s being called a “part-time position,” up to an annual maximum of 1300 hours, or $52,000. That’s nearly $12,000 more than the city’s existing full-time budget analyst. Hansen would also be eligible to participate in the Florida Retirement System. If Hansen works the maximum hours allotted, that would push the council’s staff payroll over $256,000.
While the hire moved through Monday’s agenda conference meeting without discussion, at least one council member plans to vote against it at the council’s regular meeting on Thursday night.
“I feel this really is an unnecessary hire,” Councilman Larry B. Johnson said Wednesday. “I feel very comfortable with the job that the people in our finance department do. I’ve never had any issues getting any questions answered. They have been helpful in every way possible. I believe that we already have adequate staff to handle our budget issues.”
Johnson opposed the 2014 amendment which allowed the council to hire its own staff, and has previously opposed efforts by fellow council members to hire a separate city council attorney.
“I have consistently voted for smaller government and will continue to do so,” Johnson said.
Read the job description for the city council’s proposed “strategic budget planner”: