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Hernando sheriff previews $2 million in cuts to pare budget

BROOKSVILLE — Just what do scaled-back services look like as the county struggles to make up for a $10 million revenue shortfall?

Hernando County commissioners got a glimpse Tuesday in the first full discussion of the budget year. Nowhere were the realities more clear than in law enforcement, as Sheriff Richard Nugent detailed what his agency would jettison to trim the $2 million the county has requested.

The DARE program, which educates children on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, would be gone. A similar program to steer youngsters away from gangs would also be gone.

Gone too would be substation staff; deputies providing security in the courthouse would be replaced by private security officers.

And those are just what Nugent said he would lose if he didn't touch items he considers part of his "core mission.'' He said he would also lose traffic deputies, aviation and marine deputies and community policing officers.

Nugent said the agency would lose 27 sworn officers, four non-sworn positions and 12 part-time positions under his spending plan.

"That's how we get to $2 million,'' the sheriff said.

Commissioners didn't take action on Nugent's presentation, only noting that they would continue to work with him as the budget process proceeds through September.

The commission also heard a detailed report on the budget of Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams. The county administration has asked her to trim another $40,000 from her spending plan, which totals $1.1 million.

Williams described how many of her costs were based on conditions beyond her control, such as the number of voters, the number of ballots needed and the amount she must pay her poll workers under the law. Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the county looked forward to working with Williams to trim her spending plan.

The commission voted to set the tax rate the same as last year's for purposes of preparation of the preliminary tax notices later this summer. The four countywide tax rate categories would amount to $6.34 in tax for every $1,000 in appraised taxable property value, the same as last year's rate.

For the owner of a home valued at $150,000 that would qualify for the full $50,000 in homestead exemption, the tax bill to support those core county services would be $634.

Additional taxes are assessed by emergency services, schools and other taxing authorities.

Between now and the final hearing, the commission can decrease that tax rate but cannot increase it.

Commissioners also listened to their leadership team members for overviews of where they have made cuts and consolidated in their various departments. The commissioners heard public comments about finding cuts in a variety of areas and several comments urging them not to cut funding for a clerical position in the Guardian Ad Litem program.

The Guardian Ad Litem issue and some other pending budget cuts to various departments and other organizations were referred for further discussion to the county's Budget and Finance Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Those issues will come back for commission discussion in late August.

The commission also agreed to set the date for the first public hearing on the budget for 5 p.m. Sept. 10. The final hearing is expected to be Sept. 24.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando sheriff previews $2 million in cuts to pare budget 07/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 7:52pm]
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