Tuesday, January 16, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando officials say budget shortfall may mean cuts in services

BROOKSVILLE — For each of the past several years, officials have sounded the alarm over Hernando County's growing budget deficit.

On Tuesday, they painted their most dire picture yet.

Without an increase in revenue, "we will probably have to eliminate over half of Hernando County's government services,'' budget manager George Zoettlein said.

Commissioner Jeff Stabins echoed the gloomy forecast, saying that time may have come to simply shut down entire departments of county government.

"Armageddon is here,'' he said.

Zoettlein presented the latest numbers during a workshop as commissioners begin to shape the 2012-13 budget. As it stands, with property values projected to fall another 8 percent and constitutional officers' proposed budgets close to this year's, the county needs to find $7.1 million in spending cuts in its projected $94 million general fund budget.

One of Zoettlein's suggestions was to establish separate taxing units for libraries and for parks and recreation, giving those services separate tax support. But some commissioners feared that such a move would simply result in an overall increase in property taxes.

The commission soundly rejected the separate taxing units, voting 4-0 with Commissioner Jim Adkins absent.

In Zoettlein's presentation, he also showed how the board could raise the tax rate to avoid a shortfall and how the board could reduce the shortfall to $3.8 million by raising the rate just high enough to bring in the same revenue as this year.

But those ideas brought a quick negative reaction.

Commissioner Dave Russell said the idea of raising the same amount of revenue was not an option.

"I don't want there to be any false perceptions that we're going to be revenue neutral,'' he said. "There are no more magic bullets.''

He said those were all used during the last four years as the county struggled with falling tax revenues.

Stabins agreed, saying he couldn't imagine his colleagues increasing the tax rate. He asked Zoettlein to figure out how much of the decrease in budgets over the years has been borne by board-controlled departments and how much by the county's five constitutional officers.

"That pain has not been shared across the board,'' Stabins said.

Zoettlein also pointed out that the budget shortfall does not take into account millions in other potential liabilities facing the county, including the looming repayment of Medicaid costs to the state, the possible repayment of employee retirement contributions, possible new economic development incentives and a multimillion-dollar radio purchase being looked at by the sheriff.

Russell spoke directly to the sheriff and his staff, who were in the audience Tuesday.

"Honestly,'' he said, "we don't have the money for that new system. We don't.''

Zoettlein told commissioners that even if they want to consider the elimination of departments, there are programs the county must provide under state mandates. Commissioners suggested that, before their next budget discussion, Zoettlein produce a report that outlines those mandates.

Russell said that even after the county figures out what the state requires and what could be eliminated, he would favor making sure that an equitable share of the $7.1 million shortfall be applied to departments and to the constitutional officers.

Several other commissioners nodded their support.

The board also heard a short presentation by Sheriff Al Nienhuis about his proposed budget. He outlined the services his office has taken over in recent years and how he has held the line on spending. This year, he noted, he is offering to take over the county's four animal services officers at a savings of $300,000 to the county.

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

Comments
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18
Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

CORAL GABLES — Gary Trent scored a season-high 30 and No. 5 Duke needed less than three minutes to erase a 13-point second-half deficit, scoring 18 consecutive points to overtake No. 25 Miami 83-75 on Monday night. The Blue Devils scored 15 in six po...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Mother of two, 42, identified as casualty after Port Richey boat fire

Mother of two, 42, identified as casualty after Port Richey boat fire

PORT RICHEY — As the boat disappeared in smoke and flames Sunday, as people leapt into the cold waters below, the neighborhood rallied. Residents helped the survivors ashore, gave them blankets and opened their homes to keep them warm.The neighbors o...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Jan. 15, midday:40 098 2397e_SRit98281Mon., Jan. 15, evening:14 345 3173e_SRit61471Fantasy 5Mon., Jan. 15...
Updated: 6 hours ago
On King’s birthday, Tampa Bay parties, marches, reflects

On King’s birthday, Tampa Bay parties, marches, reflects

ST. PETERSBURGTeenagers dunked on 8-foot basketball hoops, parents feasted on hot dogs and snow cones and gospel music blared from a wall of speakers in Tropicana Field’s parking lots.While thousands buzzed around them on Monday, Destiny and Dameka R...
Updated: 6 hours ago

ConnecticutArmy vet sues VA over scalpel left in body after surgeryAn Army veteran who says someone left a scalpel inside him after surgery is suing a Connecticut veterans affairs hospital. Bridgeport resident Glenford Turner says the scalpel was onl...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A time of celebration

A time of celebration

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | TimesBetty Taylor, who was marching with the organization Books on the Move, hands out beads along the MLK Dream Big Parade route in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. Spectators were treated to floats, walking units and...
Updated: 6 hours ago

50 senators endorse net neutrality return

WASHINGTON — Fifty U.S. senators have endorsed a legislative measure to override the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to deregulate the broadband industry, top Democrats said Monday.The tally leaves supporters just one vote shy of ...
Updated: 7 hours ago