BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission next week will consider a bold move to pare costs and balance next year's budget: Shutting down county government one Friday each month.
The county would save $877,230 by implementing "Furlough Friday" with $278,550 of that savings from the cash-strapped general fund. The proposal is to close down the last Friday of every month beginning Dec. 30 and running through Sept. 28, 2012.
Elected officials running the constitutional offices were polled recently on whether they, too, would be willing to shut down once a month, but they showed no interest, according to a staff memo to commissioners.
Also, the commissioners will consider a salary cut of 1.15 percent for employees making $60,000 or more. Added to the furlough-induced salary loss of 3.85 percent, those top-paid employees would see a total cut of 5 percent.
The additional reduction would save the county general fund $13,867, and other funds would save $24,273.
For the county workers represented by Teamsters Local 79, those cuts would have to be approved through the bargaining process. Contract negotiations are ongoing with the next session planned for Wednesday.
County staff is also counting on the commission to approve the use of $1.7 million out of the budget stabilization reserve to further close the gap in the general fund budget.
That reserve, needed because of tax refunds the county must make for property value adjustments and declining revenue plus added expenses for Tax Collector Juanita Sikes, can be used only if a super majority of the board agrees.
To date, more than one commissioner has expressed concerns about using more reserves to balance the budget.
The stabilization reserve fund must also be paid back, but officials hope to recover some funds in the future from legal action challenging the tax refunds.
County officials are still counting on Sheriff Al Nienhuis to cut another $1 million from his budget, and Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams to cut another $250,000. If those cuts are made and the stabilization reserve is approved by at least four commissioners, the county's general fund is just $54,000 shy of being balanced.
The calculations also figure that the commission will keep the small tax rate increase advertised, which is expected to be more than offset by the falling property values for most owners. The tax rate hike, which will generate an additional $1,365,804, amounts to an increase of $18.85 for the owner of a house with a taxable value of $100,000.
That is the same amount the tax bill would decrease because of an identical decrease in the tax rate charged home owners by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.