$40 million: Too much? Just right?
Someone asked the other day if I’ve seen the sheriff’s budget.
Actually, I hadn’t. And I just glanced at it because it’s on Tuesday’s county commission agenda.
It’s a big number: $40 million. I read through the sheriff's budget message and it goes into great detail about the economics of inflation, recession, competing with pay raises for state police officers and the like.
It’s probably there (or not), but I didn’t see a side-by-side of this year’s budget compared to the new one, so I’m not sure of the increase. Sheriff Mike Prendergast is requesting more funds for pay raises, more deputies and non-sworn employees, and body-worn cameras.
The sheriff has been touting his budget priorities on the road, speaking to community groups and Republican clubs. His message is apparently that the county commission ignores his needs, because citizens send emails to county commissioners telling them to give the sheriff what he wants.
Here’s one from a few weeks ago to Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr.:
“It’s time for the Sheriff to receive a budget that allows him to keep the citizens of Citrus County safe. Time to put the fun stuff on the back burner until next year and fund the critical stuff this year. It is time for the citizens of Citrus County to tell their Board of County Commissioners to approve the Sheriff’s budget, with discussion but not debate, there is nothing to debate. The Sheriff knows better than anyone else what is needed in his department, it’s his job to know, so let’s stop playing politics and give the sheriff and the citizens of Citrus County what they need to be safe.”
Kitchen, in his blunt manner, responded:
“The Sheriff has received every dollar he has requested without question for the last two years. He needs to be transparent about how he spends it.”
I find it funny that the letter writer, someone connected with the county Republican Party, would say “stop playing politics” in relation to funding the sheriff’s office. The sheriff is lining up public backing in a very political way for his budget.
Nothing wrong with that. We just shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t exist.
The budget is very political. It may be the most political thing the county commission does.
This year’s budget process will be even more political. Barring a leadership meltdown by the county commission majority, property taxes are going up. Citrus County has too many needs to keep whistling in the dark while the tax rate stays low.
Prendergast is a perfect example. With this sudden growth and more to come, we’d be nuts to not support the sheriff hiring more deputies with better pay.
Has he made the case with commissioners? We’ll get an idea Tuesday,
This is an interesting agenda item. The administrator is looking for “guidance” on how to proceed with budget requests from the sheriff, clerk of court and supervisor of elections.
The board had asked the constitutional officers — sheriff, clerk, elections supervisor, tax collector, property appraiser — to limit their increases to 6.5%, the agenda states.
I didn’t do the math but I’m going to guess these three came in exceeding that ask. What commissioners do with it, guess we’ll find out.
The best way to gauge the board’s direction is to watch how Kitchen leans.
Say what you want about Kitchen, but the guy is on point with the sheriff’s budget. Getting details from the sheriff’s office about spending is always like walking through a house of mirrors.
On this one, I’ll trust Kitchen’s instinct. If he feels the sheriff’s budget — and tax increase that comes with it — are spot on, I’m good with it.
If he doesn’t, though, well then we’re going to need to know why. That’s when things can get a little sticky.
In other words…politics.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.