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Sheriff asks county for $50-million budget

Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon wants new patrol cars, pay raises and 62 new staffers.

To go with his black pinstriped suit and the golden star-shaped pin on his lapel, Sheriff Lee Cannon strode into County Commission chambers Tuesday in a bright, mirthful tie.

On it, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety Bird poked their heads between portraits of George Washington on the dollar bill.

It was Cannon's gesture at levity on a sometimes tense occasion _ his annual budget pitch before Pasco's county commissioners _ and seemed to symbolize an atmosphere of ease absent in previous years.

"My daughter bought me that tie," Cannon said. "I wear it on special occasions."

Speaking for just over an hour, Cannon laid out his case for the $50.2-million he says he needs for Sheriff's Office operations for 1999-2000. That marks a $6.3-million leap from his current budget.

"We're not asking for the moon," Cannon said.

Cannon wants $2.3-million to replace marked cars in the agency's aging fleet and $572,100 to bring the pay of corrections deputies to parity with their law enforcement counterparts, who make an average of 5 percent more. He's also calling for 62 new positions, including clerks and deputies, to handle an increasing number of calls for service.

"What we have now is younger people moving in, and they're moving in in massive numbers," Cannon said. "And they're becoming problem areas for us."

Lifestyle conflicts between the younger crowd and seniors have unleashed floods of nuisance calls that tie up deputies, Cannon said. While the 24 new deputies authorized in last year's budget boosted the agency's force to 1.16 deputies per 1,000 residents, Cannon said, that still puts Pasco lower than dozens of other Florida counties.

"Our staffing ratio's pretty dismal," Cannon said.

Another item on this year's budget: a body orifice scanner, meant to detect metal hidden inside incoming inmates at the county jail. Inmates sit on it, and it goes off if something's wrong.

Price tag: $6,000.

Jokes have been made about the device, Cannon said. But the scanner is less invasive than current techniques and makes work more pleasant for corrections deputies.

"We're trying to get modern and get us a body orifice scanner," Cannon said.

Questions from county commissioners were polite and few. Sylvia Young wanted to know exactly how many cars were getting up in mileage.

Ann Hildebrand was curious about the price of a boat in the budget.

Commissioners will discuss the budget in coming weeks. Budget Director Mike Nurrenbrock said the county office of management and budget should complete its analysis of Cannon's budget to make recommendations to commissioners this month.

After Tuesday's session, Cannon said it felt more relaxed than in previous years. There was no secret of the tension between the Democratic sheriff and former Republican commissioner Ed Collins, a frequent critic of the sheriff.

Voters ousted Collins in November in favor of Democratic political newcomer Steve Simon.