Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando County avoids judicial reserve to fill budget gap — for now

BROOKSVILLE — Still at least $2 million shy of balancing the county budget for 2012-13, Hernando County commissioners stopped short Tuesday of dipping into the judicial fund reserve.

Commissioner Jim Adkins noted that, when there is a gap between revenue and spending, the only choices are to cut spending, increase the tax rate or borrow from reserves.

"You know, Mr. Chairman,'' said Commissioner Dave Russell. "We've done all three.''

The county abandoned plans for a stand-alone judicial center months ago, transferring the reserve back into general fund reserves, said Commissioner John Druzbick. But he expressed concern about using the reserve to balance the budget because that would just make it more difficult for the commission when it's time to plan for 2013-14.

Russell was poised to make a motion to use some of the $7 million the county has set aside for the judicial project when County Administrator Len Sossamon stopped him, noting that the vote might still be premature.

There are still some other things in play with county spending, Sossamon said.

Several of those were on Tuesday's agenda.

While just a few months ago the county was expecting to get hit with a bill of between $3.4 million and $4.2 million for disputed Medicaid claims, the state has dropped that down to $1.57 million, health and services manager Veda Ramirez told commissioners.

If the county agrees not to challenge the new total, it could pay a discounted amount — about $230,000 less. If the county does mount a challenge, the state could begin taking the full amount from revenue-sharing dollars the county receives.

Commissioners must decide what to do before Sept. 1; Ramirez said she would bring updated information to the board Aug. 28.

Chris Holley, executive director of Florida Association of Counties, told commissioners he anticipated that most counties would not challenge the totals in order to get the discount.

"Most everybody is going to take the bird in the hand rather than the two in the bush,'' Holley said.

In a related action, commissioners voted to rejoin the Florida Association of Counties. Hernando had dropped out several years ago to save the membership fee. But several commissioners said the organization's work on challenging the Medicaid funding and a variety of other issues made it wise to rejoin.

Hernando has been the only county in the state not to renew its membership. The dues run approximately $16,000 a year.

Another savings avenue the county is pursuing is the refinancing of $26 million in capital improvement bonds from 2002 and 2004. Commissioners had the choice of taking advantage of those savings in even increments in the coming years or taking more of the money in the early years.

They opted for the earlier savings at Sossamon's recommendation, in hopes that economic conditions will improve during the later years and the county's revenue picture will brighten.

Over the 16-year life of the bonds, the county will save $2.5 million.

One of the other ways the county is studying to save money is an assessment of its utility services. It has asked for an internal review, as well as one by the Florida Governmental Utilities Authority.

But concerns have been expressed about the amount of staff time the reviews could take. And on Tuesday, Commissioners Jeff Stabins and Adkins expressed concern that FGUA might not be the appropriate agency to conduct a review since it generally deals with much smaller, private utilities.

Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to seek a 60- to 90-day extension for completion of the study.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments
Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

DAYTONA BEACH – No, Bubba Wallace did not win the 60th running of the Daytona 500.But you wouldn't have known that after seeing his emotions after he placed second – the highest finish ever by a black driver in the Great American Race.Wal...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

OCALA — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

DAYTONA BEACH – As Austin Dillon celebrated his Daytona 500 win Sunday, he couldn't help but remember the time he was standing there, in Victory Lane, 20 years ago this week.He was 7 then, and his index finger jutted into the air triumphantly t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

Nikolas Cruz was immature, quirky and depressed when James and Kimberly Snead took him into their Parkland home. But he was pleasant and seemed to be growing happier, they said.How the 19-year-old turned into a man now arrested and charged with 17 co...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pot smokers aren’t the only law breakers able to get a second chance in South Florida. Underage adults buying alcohol, those stealing property worth less than $300 and people nabbed for trespassing, loitering or disorderly conduct a...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Facebook turns to postcards to snuff foreign ads

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in U.S. elections: the post office. Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to try to sway the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook’s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

TALLAHASSEEAhundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will travel to Tallahassee for a march on the state Capitol on Wednesday in the first organized protest of their #NeverAgain movement.Their demand: that Florida legisl...
Updated: 3 hours ago
EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly weeklong trip to Israel, agency officials confirmed Sunday.Pruitt, who had been scheduled to leave this past weekend for an extensive tour of the Mideast al...
Updated: 3 hours ago
As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

PARKLAND — On the Sunday after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost 17 of its own, a minister in Parkland implored his flock not to let the horrific shootings lead them away from their faith."Our world is broken, but Jesus is not," the Rev. Eddi...
Updated: 3 hours ago