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Sheriff seeks 1% budget boost

Citrus Sheriff Charles Dean's proposed 1991-92 budget asks for 1 percent more than the current spending plan _ a modest request, but nowhere near the 10 percent cut the County Commission had in mind. Dean's budget calls for no new hires, no cost-of-living raises for workers and no expansion of existing programs.

The bottom line, however, finds Dean asking for $12.4-million, compared with the $12.3-million in the current year's plan.

"It (the budget) is very much austere," Dean said Monday during an interview.

But the sheriff rebuffed the commissioners' call for all constitutional officers to slice their requests. He wrote that a 10 percent cut would force him to fire 30 deputies or most staffers at the 911 emergency operations center, he wrote.

"Ten percent (budget cut) would be devastating to public safety," Dean said. "We can't do that."

In a letter to commissioners, which Dean delivered Monday along with his proposed budget, he said the 10 percent cut would amount to about $1.2-million out of the current budget.

About 74 percent of the budget goes toward payroll, benefits and related costs; plus, many of the remaining line items are fixed costs such as utilities, insurance and contracted services, Dean said.

He and his staff approached the budget process with a conservative tone. The sheriff wrote that the requested money is the minimum required to keep service at the same level.

That included a 10 percent cut in operating costs and at least 15 percent cuts in all training, travel and per diem expenses, Dean wrote.

Some areas could not be cut, Dean said. The corrections division, for example, had a 7.3 percent increase because of overcrowding in the main jail and the temporary facility on U.S. 41 south of Inverness.

If given more money, Dean said, he immediately would hire more deputies to beef up the department's patrol division.

Commission Chairman Nick Bryant said Monday he is reserving judgment until he gets a chance to read the sheriff's budget request. But he said the 1 percent increase would allow the Sheriff's Office to provide the same level of service it offered in 1990.

"I'm pleased at least that we can shoot at what we had last year," Bryant said. "That's better than it could have been."

The budget, once approved, will cover the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 1992.

_ Staff Writer Wes Platt contributed to this story.