published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Board breaks out budget scalpel
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- County commissioners discussed several options to cut expenses, from big-ticket items to ways to save smaller amounts, for the upcoming fiscal year during the county's budget workshop Tuesday morning.
Interim County Administrator June Fisher presented numerous items to the board that could be used to reduce the budget in significant ways.
Fisher suggested early on in the meeting a reduction in the budget by a reimplementation of the occupational license. Fisher estimated $120,000 could be gained if the county went back to implementing the license.
Occupational licensing is also known as a tax and is used to grant businesses operation rights inside a municipal limit. Some counties often require the licensing to also be paid to the county as well as the city of operation.
"The state said it isn't really a license ... it's a tax. All you're doing is collecting money from people," Commissioner Barbara Stewart said. "We can always reimplement it and call it a tax."
"Well, we can provide that as an additional option," Fisher stated.
Fisher also presented the board with a list of outside agencies that she believed could be used for cuts. Nu-Hope, Ridge Arc, Boys and Girls Club and the Highlands County Family Safe House were each discussed for budget reductions.
Currently contributions stand at $26,234 for Nu-Hope, $4,580 for Arc, $13,500 for the Boys and Girls Club and $27,000 for the Safe House.
"The Safe House I would leave alone. It is so important in our county right now... If anything they deserve more, but we can't do it right now. I'd turn all of them, expect the Safe House, to zero by next year. I'd cut them by half for now. That's my vote," Commission Chair Jack Richie said.
A reduction of uncompensated absences was also brought up as a route for cuts.
"We are one of the few counties in the state, or nationwide, that actually fund 100 percent. We are looking to reduce that by 25 percent, that gives us about $225,000," Fisher explained.
Stewart questioned any downsides to the proposed reduction.
"Not unless everybody retires at one time," Fisher said.
Commissioner Don Elwell spoke with concerns to the cut in the uncompensated absences suggestion.
"This would put us in line with the other counties in the state, too. It's a one-time thing; we know it. We will have less pocket money to pull from. I'd like to see us balance the budget without it, but keep it in our minds," Elwell said.
Stewart felt any ideas should be considered in order to take care of the budget.
"I think that if we see something that is a no-brainer, even if it is a one-time thing, we should go ahead and do it. We should do the very best we can. We need to look at what other changes we need to make," Stewart said.
Fisher stated she had spoken with Sheriff Susan Benton and was provided with some reductions.
According to Fisher, Benton has agreed to reduce the HCSO budget by the board's suggestion of $302,000. Benton has requested $250,000 budgeted for the purchase of vehicles. The funds would be transferred into the capital fund if approved.
"I'd like to see the cuts closer to $400,000. I don't know if we can make that happen though," Elwell said.
Fisher stated that constitutional officers have agreed to look at their budgets to find additional cuts.
Other agencies and departments including Medicaid back billing and other issues, mowing operations, EDC/IDA, and local non-profits were also discussed to balance the upcoming budget.
"As we are truly searching for pennies that make dollars that make thousands, I'm afraid (Medicaid concerns) falls outside of our core services," Elwell said.
More suggestions for cuts were invited by Fisher following a short discussion regarding the services of medical agencies and programs in the county.
Stewart suggested a few other items as well as going through the departments to look for more suggestions.
"Rather than go down through each department, that is rather tedious, it would be easier for us to say to the administrator, let you make some cuts. We'll give you that kind of prerogative; I leave it to your discretion. That's why you get paid the big bucks, right?" Elwell said.
"I agree. I concur," Commissioner Ron Handley said.
Richie agreed also. "I think it's ridiculous to go through every line item."
No actions were taken during Tuesday morning's meeting other than a consensus on a few line items. Suggestions discussed by the board will be brought back at the next workshop.
Yea, you manage it (by: Vote 'Em All Out - 8/2/2012)
Does anyone really believe that the $44,314 spent on Nu-Hope, Ridge Arc & the Boys and Girls Club is better spent or managed by our County Government than by the organizations currently receiving the funds? Is the $44,314 in question really going to fix the budget issues?
sense non sense (by: dot - 8/2/2012)
For all of the county staff to somehow belive the ability to live within a smaller budget is beneath them WE HAVE ALL LOST. We will never have courage to help ourselves again or teach anyone to do the same
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