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Palm Coast Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 6 days ago

County, FCSO still at odds on budget

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‘That’s as low as I’m willing to go,’ the sheriff said of the proposed reductions he’s presented to the county.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

The county’s maximum millage rate as set by county commissioners for the proposed 2019 budget would require the sheriff to shave approximately $412,000 off of his budget request for the coming year, and he can’t see any good way to do that.

“We have given the county about $380,000 in recommended reductions,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “That’s as low as I’m going to go.” Some of the proposed reductions, however, come with some cost to the county, so the real reduction, Staly said, would be more like $314,000.

“If I’m asked to cut any more than that, I guess I’ll be appealing my budget to the governor or the cabinet,” Staly said. “There’s a fundamental unfairness here, because while I have the biggest budget of the constitutional officers, the county administrator asked me to reduce by budget request by 13%, but yet he only asked the other constitutionals to reduce their budget request by 3%. … We all have responsibilities, but I have the responsibility for the safety of this county.”

County Administrator Craig Coffey wrote in an email that the $380,000 “contains some cost shifts to the BOCC that are not really cost reductions, making the net reductions proposed closer to $300,000. Of the $300,000 net increase reduction, $200,000 was a newly created reserve which has never previously existed in the sheriff’s budget. Additionally, the same reserve amount is still being requested to be held in reserve for the sheriff within the county’s budgetary reserves.” 

As to the reductions requested of other constitutional officers, Coffey added, the county had asked for smaller dollar reductions from constitutional officers whose corresponding budgetary increases were smaller. 

“We did not ask for a percentage cut of any constitutional budget increase, we asked for dollar reductions based on the budgetary goals of the Board of County Commissioners,” he said. “However, by a percentage standard, the Board of County Commissioners reduced the amount of their budget request by almost $1 million dollars, or over 30%.  Other constitutional officers did make comparable reductions from their initial budget increases requested, such as: the Property Appraiser reduced over 10%, Clerk of the Court (and Comptroller) 12%, and 4.5% was reduced from the Supervisor of Elections request.”

Among the cuts proposed by the sheriff that would come with some cost to the county is the sheriff’s proposal to eliminate the Sheriff’s Office’s contract for custodial services in favor of having the work done by the county’s contractors.

Staly said the FCSO has added a number of new positions that have only been funded for six months and will have to be renewed, and that it faces other rising costs.

“My inmate population is up; it’s averaging about 240 a night,” Staly said. “I have to feed them, so there’s an increase there. There were other mandates from the state. ... And so, those are fixed costs. ... And I’m not going to take away contracted salary increases to our hardworking men women at the Sheriff’s Office.” 

Coffey said that over the past five fiscal years, under two sheriffs,  the Sheriff’s Office’s budget has grown from $18.9 million in FY2014 to $27.9 million for FY 2019 — almost 48%.

“Even after the increase reduction requested ($412,000 of a new net $2.9 million increase  —  $27.9 million overall), this year the sheriff is getting the majority of any new property tax revenues generated, at 44%,” Coffey said. Last year, he added, the FCSO got 51% of all new property tax revenues.  

“A major investment in law enforcement is/was necessary in many ways and comes with many details, but at the end of the day it does affect the county’s overall budget and the tax bills,” Coffey said. “We appreciate the changes the sheriff has made to his requested budgetary increase to date, and we will continue to work with him and his staff to settle on a final budget increase that works for his department and the Board of County Commissioner’s budgetary goals.”

 

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