published: Sunday, July 28, 2013
County to continue budget work
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING -- Highlands Commissioners are set to start by reviewing the county departments on Tuesday, starting with the Animal Control Department and working their way down better than 100 cost centers toward the Zoning Department, which comes at the end of the county's 800-plus page spending plan.
Tuesday will be a special meeting, since the board usually doesn't convene on the fifth Tuesday in a month.
Still to be reviewed are budgets by the constitutional officers. Reportedly, that will be part of an Aug. 13 meeting.
At their meeting last Tuesday night, commissioners heard from a number of "outside agencies" who had been asking for taxpayer money for their operations. They denied increases for all the requests, agreeing by consensus to leave all but a couple of agencies at the levels of the 2012-2013 budget year.
Commissioners agreed to fund Nu-Hope of Highlands County at last year's level of $29,000. Also left at last year's funding levels were requests by the Highlands County Health Department and the Safehouse.
One agency that came under close scrutiny at that meeting was the Highlands County Industrial Development Authority/Economic Development Commission. Both Commission Chair Jack Richie and Commissioner Don Elwell questioned EDC Executive Director Stephen Weeks about the results his agency has been able to produce, both lately and over the quarter-century span of its existence.
Weeks told the commission that although the EDC had not produced new business for the county recently, they currently are in negotiations with a national restaurant chain and had obtained a number of grants.
Although commissioners decided to leave the funding at last year's levels, Richie was not mollified.
"We have invested $2 million or more over the years and have not gotten a good return on our investment," he said. "Quite frankly, I was looking for a 10 percent decrease. We need to adjust and handle things differently."
Commissioners decided to leave the annual recreation funding level at $110,000 a year for Avon Park, Sebring and Lake Placid. Each of the communities have contended that the county is responsible for helping to fund the operation and maintenance of their facilities -- especially for-purpose recreation facilities such as ballfields -- since the bulk of the use is by residents who live outside their corporate limits.
The board made two outright cuts. One was a $250 stipend to each of the three chambers of commerce in the county. The second was the Ridge Area ARC, which was de-funded in the upcoming budget. Also receiving no funding next year will be the Boys & Girls Club of Highlands County.
Because the requested increases were included in the proposed 2013-2014 budget, the actions to leave budget levels at last year's levels are considered to be cuts from the new budget request.
COUNTY LA LA LAND CONT.3 (by: GINGERLEEDREAD - 7/31/2013)
We have a natural resource in our being on the ridge of Florida and the aquifer under us that the rest of the states Counties are pulling our fresh water out, why are we not financially benefitting from this like Georgia does from north Florida by charging to pull from their aquifer? We have several water bottling companies pulling from our aquifer here, why cant the County do the same? Not going to mention our big box farmers and cattlemen I'm sure are giving our County fair payment for our natural resources. Right?
COUNTY LA LA LAND CONT.2 (by: GINGERLEEDREAD - 7/31/2013)
Remove the assistance to the Cities, they are all financially sound and can hold their own ground till things are better. Have employees pay a larger sum of their medical coverage if they desire to keep it. Cut the work hours across the board to 30 hours and close the governments doors until you no longer have a deficit. When all of this has been done, THEN COME TO ME AS A TAX PAYER, and ask to raise the TAXES. And Further, I didn't hear one mention of ways to bring in any additional resources to the County Government by all the heads of these departments, is there anyone who works outside the box there? My question includes the County Commission! There are more then 1 thousand properties currently being held on the Counties tax certificate pages that have more then three years tax certificates on them, why not bring all these properties to sale and put them out to sale and bring in an additional income for starters.
COUNTY LA LA LAND CONT. (by: GINGERLEEDREAD - 7/31/2013)
no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay.
COUNTY LA LA LAND (by: GINGERLEEDREAD - 7/31/2013)
OK Now here is my take on the County Commissions attempt at cost cutting, Its a horse and pony show. When you have 6.1 mil to cut and all you are willing to cut is 1/12th of that and not what's needed to run our government in the black, you are not living in reality. We have a 13.1% Unemployment rate! And that's only the ones that are receiving an unemployment check, those who have fell off the unemployment lines but are still unemployed are an additional 10.2% here in Highlands. That's a quarter of our work force! 1 in 8 persons in Highlands County are on food stamps, 1 in 36 only have food stamps as their only income! About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data collected by The New York Times. In declarations that states verify and the federal government audits, they described themselves as unemployed and receiving no cash aid—
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