published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
County ready to count pennies
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- County administrator June Fisher pulled no punches presenting the county commission the recommended budget for 2013-2014 fiscal year during the commission's regular meeting Tuesday morning -- the county faces yet another year of dropping revenue and rising costs.
She said her preview was a "high-level overview," not a finished product. The commissioners mainly listened.
"This budget year will be no different than those in recent history," she said. "The county will collect less in property tax revenue and the cost to maintain existing services will increase."
Housing prices are not yet rebounding in the county. In fact, Fisher said, the property appraiser's office reports properties have devalued 2.59 percent countywide.
Ad valorem taxes will only produce about 41 percent of needed revenue. Fisher recommended a 1 percent rise in the millage rate and more spending cuts.
There are three areas in particular that will be much more expensive than last year, she said.
The Florida Retirement System raised the insurance premiums drastically. This is an added expense that will be felt not just in the county administration office, but through all the constitutional offices as well.
The county will be paying 5 percent more for utilities this year and fuel costs are being estimated at $3.50 a gallon.
The long and short of it, Fisher said, is a proposed budget of slightly more than $123 million, which is up from about $116 million in 2012-13. The commission will have to look for ways to make up a $6.1 million shortfall in revenue.
Every constitutional office asked for more this year -- mostly because of an increase in county contributions to the Florida Retirement System, utility hikes and the cost of fuel.
"FRS has clobbered us," Jack Richie, the commission's chairman said. The FRS requires an additional $276,000 from board departments, and more than $600,000 from the sheriff's office.
The sheriff, whose allocation is the county's largest expenditure, has asked for $1 million more than last year. The property appraiser's budget rose more than $270,000, the clerk of courts more than $220,000, the supervisor of elections more than $180,000 and the board attorney slightly more than $31,000. The tax collector's office supports itself and is not a part of the county budget.
There was little discussion Tuesday. The point of the presentation was to give the commissioners an idea of lies ahead. There will several workshops and further meetings during which the difficult decisions will be made.
A slow crisis by design (by: David Holland - 7/19/2013)
Eventually Florida will suffer the same economic fate as for Detroit and it's inability to pay it's retirement pensions including counties. Detroit was one city that recently had to settle on a 3% payout on pension disbursements, and is currently struggling in a bankruptcy. With a declining market and boycotts in Florida citrus exports and shipping due to contaminated and diseased fruit by invasive species and over use of pesticides and herbicides which in a domino affect harms the bee population and the necessary milkweed and such that bees and butterflies need to fulfill their roles in agriculture. Things like the Treyvon Martin popularity has caused other states to say they will not support Florida in any way. And Governor Scott stays firm in not wanting to seek amending or changing the current self defense laws. The state universities are doing their best to try and fix the massive canker and greening issues that is affecting public opinion all over the world as for Floridas fruit.
TDC (by: Allen Oldfellow - 7/18/2013)
Did I not see on the budget big $$$ for the TDC, I thought they were self supporting. When are we going to get a SUNSHINE on this. If you don't want to do it becareful you can be repalced.
FRS (by: Dudemeister - 7/17/2013)
Why is the cost of FRS rising for the county when the employees now pay 3% of thier own salary to their retirement? Sounds a bit fishy to me. Figured the legislature will boost the 3% employees put in to 6% in the next couple of years. Since FRS is and has been one of the best funded and run retirement systems, seems like someone is now lining their pockets with all the extra FRS is now 'demanding'. Is Gov. Scott stealing more money like he did from Humana (to the tune of $8 million)?
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