BROOKSVILLE - County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he was not surprised at the sheriff's 11th hour announcement of returning a big pot of money to the county to pretty much make up the remaining general fund shortfall.
It was the same thing Sheriff Al Nienhuis did last year, said Adkins.
"I expected it," he said.
Nienhuis fired off a press release late Thursday saying he was returning $700,000 in unspent funds to the county. That announcement was made with less than two weeks left before county commissioners hold their final public hearing on the 2013-14 budget and cement a millage rate.
Nienhuis attributed the money return to the "diligent efforts of his employees to control overtime and save money throughout the organization."
By shopping the agency's automobile insurance, Nienhuis was able to reduce his budget by another $50,000.
Commissioners this week approved a tax rate hike of 6.9169 mills but asked staff to find some $550,000 to close a shortfall hole. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes pressed the sheriff and all elected constitutional officers, along with department heads, to dig deeper and cut more from their own budgets. The sheriff, who makes up the largest share of the budget, was asked to cut back the most, to the tune of some $365,000.
Assistant county administrator of Budget and Business Development George Zoettlein said Friday this gives the county some breathing room and allows the board to allocate extra funds to a fund dedicated to fixing unsafe and abandoned county-owned buildings.
Zoettlein said the sheriff said weeks ago he would try and return the money but couldn't be sure until the last minute.
He had to hedge against some major event or storm that could have cost money, he said.
The county could not budget the savings into its scenario until Nienhuis made it official, Zoettlein said.
"Now that he's done this, we can cover all the expenses we have had to remove from the budget because of the millage reduction and it still leaves us with more money," Zoettlein said.