Bush's budget may force county to pick up tab

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:26 a.m.
They're not through crunching the numbers in Gov. Jeb Bush's proposed state budget, but Alachua County officials are already saying proposed cuts in state funding will make the county's budget crisis still worse.
"I feel like I'm being mugged on the way to the budget," County Manager Randy Reid said.
County officials say cuts to state funding for housing juvenile criminals could cost the county as much as $1.1 million in the next fiscal year.
The cuts, part of the $54 billion state budget the governor released Tuesday, are likely to deepen the budget troubles faced by Alachua County government. The impacts of a large annexation, rising health care costs and the operational costs of a new courthouse already have county officials anticipating $23.9 million in budget deficits over the next four years.
The projected deficit has county commissioners mulling a number of options - including cuts to county services, impact fees and an increase to the county's gas tax. An increase to the county's property tax, which now stands at $8.99 cents for every $1,000 of a property's value, may also be in the works.
County officials are still sifting through the budget numbers, but they say an analysis by the Florida Association of Counties shows that the budget would cut $1.1 million in juvenile detention funding for Alachua County. Reid said the county would be forced to pick up at least some of that bill, though the county may be able to cut some juvenile justice programs previously funded by the state.
"This is a major loss of service and of funding to the county," he said.
Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Bill Bankhead said the juvenile justice cuts were part of the several hundred million dollars Bush trimmed from various programs to pay the costs of the class-size amendment passed by voters last year.
"I am not overjoyed about cutting these things, but the public overall has spoken (through constitutional amendments) and the public did not speak to raise taxes," Bankhead said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out . . . the money has to come from somewhere."
But that's small comfort to county officials, who are upset that the funding is coming from their government's budget.
"This is the state balancing its budget on our backs," Commission Chairman Rodney Long said.
Sun staff writer Cathi Carr contributed to this report.

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