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Property values level off, but Hernando expects $7.1 million budget deficit for 2013-14

BROOKSVILLE — Although Hernando County property values are nearly identical to last year's, county officials predict they still will face a $7.1 million revenue shortfall for 2013-14.

The county's taxing authorities got their first look at preliminary property values from property appraiser John Emerson on Friday, and county officials got their first peek at the budget requests of the five constitutional officers, four of whom seek an increase.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis plans to spend $700,000 on pay raises for the agency's 511 sworn and civilian employees. His total projected budget of $41.07 million is an increase of 3 percent over the current year's and includes $760,000 to cover mandated increases to state pension contributions.

In his letter to county commissioners, Nienhuis notes that his employees haven't received a raise in several years. He said "reasonable" raises will keep quality workers from leaving.

Nienhuis plans a tiered approach to reward the more experienced employees with larger raises. The range of increases would top out at 6 percent, he said in an interview Friday. The sheriff said he plans to return enough money to the county's general fund at the end of the current fiscal year to cover the cost of the raises.

Emerson presented an estimated taxable value countywide of $6.9 billion, approximately the same as last year's. That doesn't count about $45 million in new construction or consider the $190 million the county might lose in litigation over challenges by large property owners.

Brooksville's value dropped slightly from $373.7 million to $360 million.

Preliminary calculations show that the county's general fund would lose about $1.7 million due to slightly lower values. That drop is far smaller than the decreases that have ranged from 6 percent to nearly 10 percent a year since 2008.

The loss of library grants, the spending of one-time revenues for recurring expenses and the lack of available reserves account for another $5.4 million in anticipated expenses beyond available revenues, County Administrator Len Sossamon said.

Of the constitutional officers, only supervisor of elections Shirley Anderson decreased her budget request from last year's. She is seeking $864,204, compared with $890,917. Her staff is smaller — six full-time positions, compared with her predecessor's nine. She also built in merit raises.

Emerson's budget projection increases slightly from $2.37 million in the current year to $2.46 million to help cover higher state pension expenses

Clerk of the circuit court Don Barbee is seeking $1.83 million for the portion of his budget that funds county functions, a 4 percent increase. Barbee said he cut operating expenses slightly but has increased the allocation for benefits to buffer employees from an expected increase in health insurance premiums.

Tax collector Sally Daniel has requested a payment from the county totaling $2.48 million, compared with $2.39 million for the current year.

Property values level off, but Hernando expects $7.1 million budget deficit for 2013-14 05/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 8:32pm]
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