Tuesday, April 24, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando government will get leaner

BROOKSVILLE — The downsizing of Hernando County government has begun, according to County Administrator David Hamilton.

Some details of that initiative include a possible early retirement "buyout'' incentive for supervisors and department heads, a salary scale applied evenly across the operation, and centralized operations such as technology, finance and human resources.

Those are among the items Hamilton spelled out to county commissioners and the county's Office of Management and Budget in an internal memo Monday.

Hamilton uses two different routes to lower county spending to the levels demanded by property tax reductions mandated through Amendment 1 and falling property values.

One would require county departments to slice their spending according to an as-yet unspecified formula. Once they receive their target reduction, departments will make their budgets and prepare to explain what would be cut or lost, he said.

Department heads would then gather June 30 to discuss their budgets before the first balanced-budget document heads to the County Commission on July 15.

The second route would involve budget analysis reports due to Hamilton by June 23. These would explore cost conclusions about early retirement, department consolidation, overtime, travel, training, fleet costs and energy costs. Some of the more sweeping spending changes could take up to two years to implement, he said.

Hamilton's idea for early retirement would tap into Hernando County's reserve funds for a one-time payout to workers knowing that over a period of years the county should be able to save salary money. Details of who would be eligible for a buyout have not been established.

Another change Hamilton wants is for the county to budget assuming 98 percent of the property taxes will be received. Typically, the county anticipates in its budget that it will only collect 95 percent of what it is due from property tax payers. However, the county usually collects 98 to 99 percent, which creates a 3 to 4 percent budget cushion.

By basing the budget on a more realistic figure, he said, the county removed this "wiggle room.''

Hernando also will look at how other counties are meeting their budget goals in these lean times.

Hamilton said his ideas also will be applied to the budgets of constitutional officers, including the sheriff, the supervisor of elections, the tax collector, the property appraiser and the clerk of courts. Those initial budgets were to be delivered to the county by Monday.

George Zoettlein, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the sheriff's budget came in above last year's amount but all the others received were at or below previous years.

Hamilton anticipated that the detailed discussions of how to pare down all of the budgets would get more difficult as the summer wears on. He put it this way: "So far goodwill is maintained, but the tension is mounting.''

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

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