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Department heads tell of effects of the falling ax

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County residents who enjoy youth sports, use of county parks and boat launches could soon find themselves paying to use the publicly financed facilities.

Riders of the public transit system, THE Bus, and others who use libraries or animal control services may see hours and days of operation cut back.

County employees could see big changes, with senior staffers leaving under an early retirement option and more jobs eliminated. Those who remain may see smaller pay raises, more tasks assigned to fewer people, employee safety incentives gutted and dirtier facilities. Even the traditional employee picnic is on the chopping block.

These are just some of the prices that the public may need to pay for a leaner Hernando County government that legislators and voters have demanded by slashing property tax revenue.

While county officials have been grappling with big-ticket cuts needed to balance the 2009 budget, many of the proposed cuts suggested by various county departments last week show the stark reality of how the shrinking budget will affect the lives of ordinary Hernando residents.

County Administrator David Hamilton asked department heads to reduce their budgets and he wanted to know how those reductions would affect services. Here is a sampling of those proposals:

• Save $20,000 by eliminating the spay-neuter rebates and rabies programs at Animal Services.

• Save $43,582 in code enforcement by eliminating one full-time customer service representative, "resulting in reduction of timely customer service, payment processing, communications with field officers and Special Magistrate program oversight.''

• Save $41,103 by eliminating the secretarial position in Cooperative Extension, "resulting in increased workload to other employees, reduction in 4-H programs and customer service level and delays in issuing program materials and information to volunteers and youth.''

• Save $157,829 by eliminating four maintenance and custodial staff, "resulting in the reduction in levels of service provided (such as) service request response times and frequency of cleaning.''

• Save $1,964 by reducing the operations of the Little Rock Cannery by two hours per week and earn another $3,500 by increasing fees for use of the facility.

• Save $3,000 by eliminating employee picnic and wellness programs, "possibly risking employee morale and decreased awareness of injury and illness avoidance.''

• Save $11,000 by eliminating the Safety Rewards Program incentive prizes in Risk Management.

Commissioners will get their first public opportunity to discuss the proposed budget cuts today. A balanced budget will then be presented to the commission on July 15. Workshops and public hearings will continue through late September.

Commissioners will decide what is cut in the spending plan.

"When you go out the door, these are the things that aren't going to be available anymore,'' said George Zoettlein, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

by the numbers

Possible savings if proposed budget cuts are made:

$20,000 Ending spay-neuter rebates, rabies programs.

$157,829 Cutting four maintenance and custodial positions.

$43,582 Eliminating one code enforcement customer service representative.

$41,103 Laying off the Cooperative Extension secretary.

$3,000 Forgoing the employee picnic, wellness programs.

$1,964 Closing Little Rock Cannery for two more hours per week.

Department heads tell of effects of the falling ax 06/30/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 5, 2008 10:55pm]
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