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Pasco commissioners reject Sheriff Bob White's budget settlement

DADE CITY — On Monday, Pasco Sheriff Bob White proposed a last-minute settlement with commissioners: He'd cut his budget request from $4 million to $3 million if commissioners agreed to fund 28 new deputies.

On Tuesday, commissioners said: Thanks, but no thanks.

"I honestly don't see this as a settlement," said Commissioner Henry Wilson.

"From $4 million to $3 million is not a serious settlement," agreed Chairwoman Ann Hildebrand.

On to Tallahassee.

County officials and the Sheriff's Office square off Monday at the first state hearing on White's budget appeal.

Staff for Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hear presentations from both sides and later come up with a recommendation. Scott and Cabinet members will vote on the matter March 9.

Commissioners kept White's funding for this year flat at $85.5 million but White wanted another $4 million, primarily to cover the cost of 28 new deputies for Holiday and Embassy Hills.

White put forth his offer on Monday after reading a Sunday story in the St. Petersburg Times that officials said Commissioner Pat Mulieri had offered White half the requested deputies and he refused.

White did not reject that offer in a public meeting, and his spokesman said he'd never received any serious offers. Though Mulieri told the Times last week that she did not recall White rejecting the offer of 14 deputies, she said at Tuesday's meeting that he did.

"I asked him about 14 deputies, and he said it wouldn't work," she said. She added, however, that in light of the recent deaths of law enforcement officers, she worried about back-up.

She said the two sides needed to lay out a funding plan for future years. "Somehow we've got to work together," she said.

White's letter to commissioners this week said he'd drop his request for funding for the non-deputy positions. That includes four communications officers, a court bailiff, a school resource officer and an investigative aide.

"If I could get the funding for the 28 deputies starting April 1, that would be halfway through the budget year which would cut my request significantly," he wrote.

Commissioners said that did not represent a real settlement, because those are recurring costs.

"This is not a reduction," said Commissioner Ted Schrader. "It's just basically making some adjustments for the fiscal year."

"I'm really surprised this is even going forward," said Commissioner Jack Mariano, noting that the county next year begins paying for the 24 deputies White hired in 2009 with a three-year federal grant.

White's budget appeal is already having reverberations for the 2012 election. Wilson said at the meeting that he'd gotten a phone call from Roger Fortney, a retired Pasco deputy who has filed to run for sheriff next year.

Wilson said Fortney told him he was reviewing a way to beef up enforcement without asking for more money.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco commissioners reject Sheriff Bob White's budget settlement 02/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 8:55pm]

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