Public safety investments, including funding for eight additional sheriff’s deputies, are among the priorities in Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker’s recommended $568 million budget for 2016-17.
Hunzeker also is recommending no tax rate increase for the 10th consecutive year.
The other public safety investments include funding to continue the Community Paramedicine and Marine Paramedic Rescue pilot programs; partial funding for eight School Resource Officers at Manatee County middle schools; and three new positions in the Public Safety department.
$568 million Manatee County FY17 recommended budget
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“It has always been a priority of the Board of County Commissioners,” Hunzeker said of the recommended public safety spending. “No. 1 priority is the public safety of the community.”
While the eight additional sheriff deputies included in the recommended budget is fewer than the 37 requested, Sheriff Brad Steube said he originally was told he wasn’t going get any new personnel. Last year, Steube didn’t get any of the new positions he requested.
It is a step in the right direction.
Brad Steube, Manatee County Sheriff
“It is a step in the right direction,” Steube said. “Things are fluid, and things are changing. I will go back, and I will sit down with staff and take a look at those eight.”
The recommended budget, which is based on a 9 percent growth in property values, is $15 million more than the county’s current $553 million budget. Projected property tax revenue is $26.5 million less than in 2007, which means the proposed budget is 11 percent smaller than that year despite the increase in population, according to the budget message.
The net budget figure is a close estimate, as property values for next year won’t be certified until July 1. The June 1 estimate shows property values will rise 8.16 percent, which means some property owners likely will pay more in taxes even if the millage rate stays the same.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the “commission has worked very hard to not raise millage in 10 years.”
“That can’t be said enough for how fiscally prudent this board has been,” she said.
While the budget presented to the commission Thursday is balanced, the county’s reliance on property taxes is not sustainable for the future, according to Hunzeker.
A Citizens Financial Structure Advisory Board has recommended to the commission that a half-cent infrastructure sales tax is the best way to make the budget sustainable. The commission, which is exploring whether to pursue a joint effort with the school board, will have to approve an ordinance to put the sales tax referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot at its June 21 commission meeting, according to Hunzeker. The ordinance would have to be advertised 10 days in advance of that meeting.
The latest date to get it to the Supervisor of Elections Office to be on the ballot is Aug. 22.
“We are not sustainable in our budget,” Hunzeker said. “We can’t maintain assets we built and can’t put money away for the next recession, and there will be one when we least expect it.”
The recommended budget “does not contemplate a sales tax passage nor a failure of a sales tax,” Hunzeker said.
“This budget contemplates business as we know it today,” he told commissioners. “If a sales tax initiative were to be put on the ballot, I am not so sure how much this budget would change at all.”
Other funding recommendations in the budget include a 4 percent pay-for-performance employee raise; $500,000 to address the county’s pay compression issue; parks and preserves infrastructure upgrades; and additional unincorporated road system maintenance. The budget also includes $6.9 million for health care, Hunzeker said.
Thursday’s meeting is the first in a series of meetings over the next two weeks on the recommended budget. In September, the commission will adopt its budget in two public hearings. Thursday’s meeting was also the first time the commissioners heard the recommended budget.
Commissioner Charles Smith said they don’t know what they are going to decide on the budget.
“This is the time where everything is on the table,” he said.
Upcoming Manatee County budget meetings
- June 8, 1:30 p.m., Fund Summary Review, Manatee Room
- June 14, 9 a.m., Decision Unit Review, Manatee Room
- June 15, 1:30 p.m., Constitutional Officers, first floor chambers
- June 16, 1:30 p.m., Capital Improvement Plan, Manatee Room
- June 16, 6 p.m., Public Hearing, first floor chambers
- August 2, 9 a.m., Budget Reconciliation/Approval of Tentative Millage Rate, first floor chambers