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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Board set to tackle budget shortfall


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BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners will once again find themselves in familiar territory as they try and figure out ways to climb out of a budget hole Tuesday.

This year, the 2013-14 shortfall stands at $9.7 million and, following the well-worn script, the county administrator will present alternative revenue options to try and decrease the gap.

And, in what has become a yearly task, board members will again ask the elected constitutional officers to cut back more on their submitted budgets.

This year, the possibility of raising the millage rate is a greater possibility than ever, especially since the budget manager has told commissioners they can no longer rely on reserve funds to close the budget hole.

That option, used in previous years, won't work this time because there is little to no budget reserves left, according to Assistant County Administrator for Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein.

County commissioners last month recommended a 1.1 millage rate hike to make up some of the shortfall. That would raise the rate from the current 5.9 mills to 7 mills, an 18.6 percent increase over the present rate.

If approved, the average taxpayers - whose home is valued at $50,000 after a homestead exemption - would see their tax bill increase about $40-50 a year. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The new fiscal year budget starts Oct. 1.

Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who heads up the largest of the five constitutional offices, submitted a budget of $39.9 million, or some $1.2 million more than his current budget.

Nienhuis said in a news release his budget represents a combination of decreases to his operational expenditures and increases to personnel costs compared to fiscal year 2012-13. Even though the sheriff's office is experiencing mandatory increases in risk management insurance premiums through the county and retirement contributions, he said efforts continue to streamline operations and cut costs to reduce overall operating costs.

The budget hearing will begin at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

During Tuesday's hearing, commissioners will adopt a tentative millage rate and budget during the first of two public hearings.

The second and final budget hearing will be at 5:01 p.m. Sept. 24.

(352) 544-5290

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