BROOKSVILLE — For the second year in a row, the Little Rock Cannery has been saved by an anonymous donor.
This week, county finance director Amy Gillis received a $55,124 unsigned cashier's check written on a Bank of America account. The specific purpose of the check was to keep the popular cannery open for another year.
"It is by far the largest single donation we've received for continuing services,'' Gillis said.
That amount is the program's annual budget including the salary of Flossie Raines, who has overseen the cannery since 1993.
"How sweet,'' Raines said. "This is great. It's just unheard of.''
The program was likely going to be a victim of the heavy budget ax that County Commissioners will be wielding this summer to meet the $10 million funding shortfall.
Last year, the commission heard the impassioned plea of area residents who urged that the program be saved during the difficult budget times. They crowded into meetings, talked about the family traditions built at the cannery and argued that, during such lean times, the cannery was more needed than ever before.
A Spring Hill veterinarian stepped forward to lease the facility to operate it for the community but cannery regulars convinced the commission to maintain the control. Eventually donations from the community, including an anonymous cashiers check written from Bank of America for $31,907, which paid Raines entire salary, were collected.
Commissioners saved the program with the admonition that this year, a committee of the interested residents would find another funding mechanism. They held several bake and garage sales to raise funds, Raines said.
She said she thought the donation sent a clear message that the program is supported. "Especially now, there is such a need for this type of facility,'' she said.
Business at the cannery is booming for those who spend $10 a year to use the equipment and the years of experience Raines has in the process, a process she learned from her mother and grandmother.
She said she was grateful to the donor.
"He's got to have a spot in heaven. Or she does,'' she said.
County budget and management department director George Zoettlein said that while the news about the cannery was good, it did little to help with the county's $10 million deficit.
Several days ago, he thought he had gotten some positive news at last when state estimates of sales tax and revenue sharing totals was released.
But budget managers across the state wondered why all the numbers were higher than they expected.
A few days later, the state told counties and cities that their numbers were off and that they would up updated information soon.
County budget cutting discussions begin in earnest next week with budget workshops planned before the County Commission starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday and again at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The Wednesday workshop will cover the capital budget, a general fund budget overview and spending and the second day will address other funds including fire and rescue, transportation and environmental, land, staffing and development services.
Formal budget hearings and final budget and tax rate approvals are slated for September.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.