BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis says he gave his staff a directive: Hold the line on next year's budget.
The staff met that goal and more, Nienhuis says.
The sheriff on Friday submitted a 2012-13 budget of $38,277,524, the exact figure as last year. As reported previously, he also is offering to take over the expense of putting four Animal Services officers on the street, a savings for the county's general fund.
Nienhuis said he will be able to keep his budget flat and assume the costs of the animal control officers — estimated at $300,000 — by cutting some positions and trimming other areas.
Asked for specifics, he said the final details are still in the works, but that he does not foresee layoffs or a reduction in patrol deputies.
"I have to submit a budget that's reasonable and necessary to protect the citizens of Hernando County. In fact, I have to swear to it," Nienhuis said. "I believe this budget is more than reasonable and necessary."
In a cover letter to the County Commission, Nienhuis noted that his agency has collected an annual average of $300,000 in revenue from the county jail since taking over that operation in the summer of 2010. He compared that to the average of just more than $40,000 a year that the previous private operator collected.
Three of the county's other four constitutional officers submitted proposed 2012-13 budgets this week that are slightly smaller than this year's.
The tax collector's spending plan is $1.93 million, the clerk of the circuit court's is $1.76 million and the supervisor of elections' budget is $874,000. The property appraiser's proposed budget of $2.14 million is a slight increase from this year.
John Emerson, chief deputy to the appraiser, said the office has assumed the responsibilities for geographic information system, or GIS, programs previously handled by county transportation services.
Taking into consideration the revenues the constitutional officers receive to offset some of their costs, they would collectively cost the county's general fund about $140,000 less next year than this year.
But with the county facing an $8 million shortfall in the general fund next year due to property values that continue to fall, "that's not really going to put a dent in that,'' said county budget manager George Zoettlein.
Last year, in anticipation of a revenue shortfall in the 2011-12 budget, the county administrator issued a directive to the constitutional officers to trim their budgets by a total of $3 million. There was no such directive issued this year.
Staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.