One year after his election to the Escambia County Commission, Jeff Bergosh is preparing to take over the chairman’s seat. One of his first acts is aimed at the panel’s feud with county law enforcement.
Bergosh will receive the gavel from outgoing Chairman Doug Underhill at Thursday’s Commission meeting. Almost immediately, Bergosh is expected to offer a proposal to resolve the funding issue with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
“A plan that will generate upwards of ten million dollars over the next several years, without raising property tax rates,” said Bergosh. “Just by modifying a few things the way we fund certain things.”
The ten million, says Bergosh, would be in addition to the annual ECSO budget, which would be based on a memorandum of understanding and a memorandum of agreement over a five year period.
“We’ll set it at a base year, and we’ll give [ECSO] commensurate increase every year to whatever we increase,” Bergosh said. “And we’ll creatively fund an additional $2.1 million yearly, to help him fix his pay scale issue.”
Sheriff David Morgan went into budget talks looking to increase his $54 million budget for next fiscal year by about four million dollars, to be used for pay raises. In July, after the impasse was established, the Sheriff announced he would appeal to Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
“I want the County Commission to understand that I’m looking forward to appealing this budget to the Governor,” said Morgan on ECSO’s cable television program. “You raised the budget in Escambia County by $19 million this year; and you could not find $3.6 million, not only for a three percent pay raise, but to begin to address this issue of pay compression.”
In whatever form the proposal from incoming chairman Jeff Bergosh takes, he says there is no ‘quid pro quo’ for Morgan to drop his appeal in order to accept the plan.
“Bringing a plan at this stage, it shows another level of good faith on the part of the County Commission,” said incoming Chairman Jeff Bergosh. “[Morgan] has said his pay scale is his issue, and he’s losing deputies because of it. I’m bringing a plan that will address it. There is no quid pro quo.”
Bergosh is also quick to add that appeals such as Morgan’s rarely if ever land on the governor’s desk – only three times in the past three decades.
The Escambia County Commission meets at nine o’clock Thursday morning in their chambers in downtown Pensacola. At that time, Commission Jeff Bergosh will be sworn in as chairman for a one-year term.