Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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 or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando officials say budget shortfall may mean cuts in services 06/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nurse backs Kriseman in St. Pete mayor's race


    Council member Karl Nurse has endorsed Mayor Rick Kriseman.

  2. Spring Hill woman, 24, dies when car hits tree in Pasco County


    LAND O' LAKES — A 24-year-old woman died early Saturday morning after her Hyundai Elantra hit a tree, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. Florida Insiders: We'll find out soon whether Adam Putnam has a glass jaw


    This month's Florida Insider Poll questions: Who would be the strongest Democratic/Republican nominee for governor? Whom do you expect will win the Democratic/Republican gubernatorial nomination? Which party …

    Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like
  4. Before Janessa Shannon's death, parents traded accusations of abuse


    TAMPA — Long before Janessa Shannon's remains were discovered in a Hillsborough County nature preserve, her parents tried to convince court officials that she was in danger.

    From her own family.

    Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead July 12 in the Triple Creek Nature Preserve in Hillsborough County. [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children]