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County looks at raising recreational fees

BRADENTON — Manatee County residents who enjoy tennis might soon pay more to play on county courts.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told the county commission Monday at a budget work session that his proposed budget includes increases in user fees for the county racquet center and golf courses.

Also proposed is a $1 day pass to ride the popular Anna Maria Island trolley.

“We have this business called a golf course,” Hunzeker said in response to a resident’s question about increasing fees, “and if we can’t make enough money to pay for its operation, the commissioners are in a position to say, get out of that business.”

Tangelo Park resident Larry Brown, who was representing the Federation of Manatee County Community Associations, was concerned with talk about raising user fees for county services.

“We’re in a budget crunch,” Brown told the commissioners after listening to them discuss Hunzeker’s spending plan for 2009-10.

“This is the time to cut spending.”

He said he is a retiree living solely on Social Security and not being able to afford to use the county facilities because the costs keep going up.

“I don’t have any more money,” Brown said, “and there’s a lot of seniors in the same situation.”

Hunzeker provided the commission its first look at the budget numbers Monday.

In what he called a “30,000-foot view,” the general overview of the 2009-10 budget was broken down into about 150 separate funds.

Hunzeker and Jim Seuffert, director of the county financial management department, reviewed each of those funds for the commissioners.

One of the largest is the general operating fund, which showed an expected revenue of about $217.5 million for 2009-10.

That is $13.3 million less than this year, mostly because property tax revenues are expected to be down about 6.8 percent, or about $11.5 million.

This shortfall, added to revenue reductions in other funds, forced the county administrator to find about $33 million in spending cuts or revenue increases.

Some cuts came from the reduction of about 100 employee positions through layoffs and early retirement, or elimination of vacant jobs.

The increase in user fees for various county services were proposed in order to reduce the amount of subsidies now used to operate them.

The commissioners took notes and asked questions for clarification, but in general understood government would have to be pared back.

The commission will meet with the constitutional officers, such as Sheriff Brad Steube and Clerk of the Court Chips Shore, to review their budgets at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Manatee Room of the Manatee County Administration Center.

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