Linda Wright, who stepped in as acting director while the Pasco County Housing Authority reeled from scandal after scandal last year, will get a $12,000-a-year raise.
But the authority Board canceled plans for the rest of the agency's employees to get cost-of-living raises. Board Chairman David Lambert had proposed giving the agency's 32 employees an across-the-board 5 percent raise, but after delving into the agency's books, he realized the authority couldn't afford it, he said.
"We don't have the income to pay those salaries," he said at a board of commissioners meeting Thursday.
Now that the authority has hired an executive director, Wright returned to her position as coordinator for the authority's Section 8 program — the only department at the housing authority that's generating positive cash flow. So her salary will be bumped up from $37,773 to $52,000, which is closer to the industry average.
The board also approved pay raises for all Section 8 housing specialists to bring their pay in line with other local housing authorities. Executive Director Dianne Morris said the raises are critical because three housing specialists have left for higher paying jobs.
"We're training them, and then they're leaving," she said. "If we don't fix this, we're going to be a revolving door for people."
Commissioner Ed Blommel said he worried about how the move would be perceived. "I agree we need to pay people for the skill sets they bring to the table," he said. "I think this is right, but we need to be prepared to deal with public perception. No one else who works in government has had a raise in five years."
Thursday's meeting was the first since Morris started in late April. Her salary for the first year is $83,000, but she could be making $92,100 after her one-year anniversary. Commissioners approved a five-year plan to raise the director's pay to $112,746 by 2017. The raises are contingent on Morris meeting specific goals, such as lowering the vacancy rate and improving the authority's standing with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"I have the utmost confidence in her," Lambert said. "I expect this place to be a top performer in a year."