County OKs five of six budget guidelines for 2015

Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:41 p.m.

At a special meeting Thursday, the County Commission unanimously accepted five of six budget guidelines presented by the county's Office of Management and Budget for fiscal year 2015.

The commission did not approve a guideline in which the county would maintain the current funding allocation for law enforcement between the general fund and the municipal service taxing unit.

Instead, commissioners directed staff to work with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office to analyze the existing historic split on law enforcement funding between the general fund and the law enforcement municipal services taxing unit. The staff was asked to bring the results back to the commission for consideration.

Commissioners did approve guidelines to:

* Maintain the 5 percent reserve policy for major operating funds.

* Budget a minimum of a 10 percent unassigned fund balance in the general fund.

* Allocate one-time sources toward reserves or one-time expenditures.

* Continue to present a two-year budget.

New to this year's budget plan is a guideline to limit the reduction in the budgeted general fund balance to $5 million, exclusive of the reserve.

"Historically in the last seven or eight years, we spend about $5 million less than we appropriate," said Tommy Crosby, director of the Office of Management and Budget. "By limiting it to that $5 million reduction, our goal is by the end of the year, our expenditures and revenues will be in balance."

Although there was much debate on the issue, commissioners also unanimously voted to direct staff to work on language for a budget principle to recognize the effects of inflation and population growth on the budget.

"It's something that belongs in our budget guidelines," said Commissioner Mike Byerly, who brought the issue to the table. "Not taking those things into account has hurt us in the past."

Crosby told commissioners it would take time to factor population growth into the budget development process and he said he was hesitant to do so. However, he would not comment on the motion following the meeting.

Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said he thinks the County Commission considers population growth.

"We're essentially doing pretty well as far as compensating for growth," Pinkoson said. "We do address that, I think."

Commissioners Pinkoson and Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV expressed interest in priority-based budgeting, a concept discussed at a Feb. 18 County Commission meeting. The priority-based budgeting process includes identifying available resources and identifying and ranking priorities.

"I just think we need to start moving forward with a lot of the stuff from the presentation given to us, especially with the prioritized budget," Chestnut said. "We're moving in the right direction."

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