Manatee sheriff wins commission’s support for budget hike

Even with the proposed addition of eight Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, there will still be fewer deputies per 1,000 residents in Manatee County than last year due to continued population growth.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Brad Steube presented his 2016-17 budget to the Manatee County Commission, which also heard from other constitutional officers.

In addition to the eight patrol deputies, the commission indicated support for funding 13 other new positions in the sheriff’s office — four corrections deputies, six dispatchers, a public records clerk and two forensic analysts — at a cost of $796,741.

The sheriff’s office has the same number of dispatchers as it had in 1990 despite handling an additional 690 calls for service on an average day, according to Steube’s presentation.

In the $568 million recommended budget presented by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker earlier this month, funding was recommended for eight deputies and eight school resource officers in middle schools.

“We haven’t sat yet to determine where they are going to go,” Steube said of the proposed eight new deputies.

If the money isn’t found within the recommended budget for the additional 13 positions, Commissioner Robin DiSabatino asked how the nearly $800,000 would translate into a millage increase.

“We want to make sure you are whole and you have the resources,” DiSabatino said. “We can be an Orlando or Ferguson at any time, and hopefully we will never be, and we want to make sure you are equipped to handle it.”

Some commissioners also questioned paying half the cost of eight school resource officers in middle schools. While the county didn’t pay its half last year, Steube said it has always been a 50-50 proposition. The proposed budged recommends the county provide $415,000 for the SROs at the middle schools to bring it back to the 50-50 funding split.

“I just find that amazing when their budget is so much larger than ours,” Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said. “I’m not trying to take away from the SROs. I know it is very important to have them in schools.”

Commissioner Charles Smith said he would not support Manatee County government paying half the cost of middle school SROs.

“(Manatee County) School Board has way more funds than we do and to continue to do things the way we continue to do is why we are here today,” Smith said.

When the money isn’t there, the SROs may be cut back, DiSabatino said. At elementary schools, there are no SROs, according to Steube.

“We need SROs in the schools, and not every school has them,” DiSabatino said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the commission also heard budget presentations from the Property Appraiser’s Office, the supervisor of elections and the clerk of the circuit court.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson