June represents the beginning of the county’s budget process for the next fiscal year. At the 06/06/17 BOCC meeting, those departments who are mandated presented their tentative budget needs – the Sheriff’s Office, Clerk of Court, Supervisor of Elections, and Property Appraiser – with an overview of the rest of the general fund budget and revenue sources by Budget Manager Pamela Lee.
Lee reminded the commissioners and the public that the presentations were simply the requests from the departments and not a final or approved budget. And because the County uses a zero-based budget system, unused funds do not carry over to the next fiscal year as a credit to that department.
Sheriff Al Nienhuis made the first presentation. In order to maintain the current level of service, he said, they will require a 3.5% increase, which translates to approximately $1.5 million. Most of that includes retirement.
Neinhuis stated that by looking at every line item, they have been able to see where they could make some changes. Expenses are reduced approximately $105,000. A new school resource officer for Winding Waters, paid in part by the School Board, is one of several new positions they would like to add.
Increased crime is being committed by persons who do not live in the county. A way to deter this is with a physical presence, so Nienhuis proposes having 10 more deputies available to patrol.
Terri McClanahan, Comptroller for the Sheriff’s Office, presented their timeline and process, which begins in March. By April, collective bargaining with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) begins, and the requests are prioritized. Staffing is the greatest need.
Some increases are mandated or are considered non-discretionary – Florida Retirement System, workers compensation, etc. But by the time the budget comes before the BOCC for approval, it has gone through many steps and multiple changes, and has been pared down significantly. The original proposal was $4.1 million. The final proposal was cut to $2.3 million.
Don Barbee, who is the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, presented his budget request. The budget for the Clerk’s office is funded differently because of the various responsibilities that have been added by the legislature over the years. Because of this, 65% of the budget is funded through the legislature.
Funding from the courts is from the legislature. It also dictates how much of the collected monies Barbee can spend as a “depositor” county. In other words, Hernando County is one of 17 in the State which “collects more than we need,” Barbee said. The rest of the collected court fees are sent to Tallahassee.
The BOCC provides funds for the services it asks the Clerk’s office to perform (finance, audit, Clerk to Board, etc.). Barbee returns unused funds to the county in October. Fees that are paid for official records are another funding source (marriage licenses, passports, etc.). Anything that is received above the budgetary needs is also sent to thecounty in October.
Supervisor of Elections, Shirley Anderson, shared the number of responsibilities of her office, which receives 100% of its funding from the county. The budget proposal shows an increase over the last year. One major cost is for new e-Poll books to replace the ones purchased in 2007 which use Microsoft XP.
The second expense is due to the auditor’s request that the budget include the cost of the HAVA grant. Anderson stated that without those two major items, the budget would have decreased by approximately $56,000.
“It’s a good year to be here in front of you,” stated Property Appraiser John Emerson. There is an increase in taxable value of 6.5% over last year, in part due to new construction. The construction is not limited to stores, but also reflects residential.
The preliminary tax roll will be sent to the Department of Revenue in July, and Emerson expects there to be changes before the final numbers are seen. Some home values have fluctuated, with unrepaired sinkhole homes having a lower depreciation. An additional homestead exemption is expected to have a negative impact.
Lee returned to discuss the requests of the other departments that are funded by the county, both general and non-general funds. She noted that currently the county has a deficit, but she considered it a “doable deficit” since the process for the next fiscal year is just beginning, and the budget is not balanced.
Everything currently being submitted is part of each department’s requests for the next fiscal year and will depend upon available funds. The amount of available funds is determined by millage, a percentage of every $1,000 of property value. Since property values are increasing, it is likely to show an increase in funds the county may use. Another revenue source is the local communication service tax.
Lee stated that the county receives approximately 96-98% of what is budgeted. The budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018 is just over $56,490,737, which is roughly 7% more than last year. Budget talks will continue, with each department being examined before the BOCC votes to adopt the budget.