County budget gets final OK

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.

Alachua County Commissioner Mike Byerly clashed with Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell last Tuesday at the second and final hearing on the fiscal year 2012-13 general fund budget, which was approved in a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Paula DeLaney voted against the $309.9 million budget, but Byerly voted in support of it even though he voted against it in a 3-2 vote at the first budget hearing in early September. (After the meeting, Byerly said he meant to vote against it, but thought he was voting on revenue estimates instead.)

Byerly said at the meeting he would vote against the budget for the third time in 12 years because of its use of one-time money to cover annually recurring expenses. In the next budget cycle, he said, that money won't be there but the expenses will, and the commission will likely need to either increase property tax rates or make deep funding cuts to pay for them.

He clashed with Darnell, who spoke at the hearing to dismiss the "misinformation" she said he had previously presented in meetings and news interviews regarding the Sheriff's Office budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Byerly has questioned the $1.8 million increase it received, one of few the county gave.

Darnell argued that most of that increase is for the Alachua County Jail, which is a county responsibility the Sheriff's Office manages under contract.

But Byerly only mentioned the increases, not the offsetting reductions, Darnell said.

She said the difference between the fiscal year 2011-12 and 2012-13 general fund budgets for her department is actually $151,166, not $1.8 million, once her reductions are taken into account.

The general fund budget for the Sheriff's Office this year is $65,686,111, while next year's will be $65,837,277.

She left after giving her comments, saying she had another engagement. Byerly called her leaving "very unprofessional" and said it prevented him from having a real conversation about the issue.

The crowd of around 60 people ‘oohed' when Byerly said, " … It seems a little disrespectful for you to make (your comments) and then leave, but I'm getting used to that."

Commissioner Lee Pinkoson later said the small difference in the Sheriff's Office budget from this year to the next shows Darnell made the necessary cuts to offset the funding increases.

Later in the meeting, the commission approved maintaining the general fund property tax rate of almost 8.6 mils in a 3-2 vote, with Byerly and DeLaney in dissent.

This will lead to a revenue drop of about $3.2 million in the upcoming fiscal year because taxable property values dropped 3.38 percent. One mil equals one dollar of every $1,000 of taxable value.

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