No New Taxes, Sheriff Gets $1.2 Mil, Stand-In Commish Says HCSO Budget Process “Systemically Incoherent”
HERNANDO – The $1.2 million dollar battle is over and residents won’t face new taxes; at least not this year, after the Board of County Commissioners finally granted the Sheriff’s budget request, and voted no on a new Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
Chairman Wayne Dukes opened today’s BOCC meeting, by stating “The sheriff applied for $1.7 million. At that point we needed a source to find it because the taxes weren’t there.” Dukes claimed that legal advisors said the money could come out of reserves again or “ultimately” an MSTU.”
Dukes turned to stand-in Commissioner John Mitten and asked if he would consider an MSTU; Mitten said “At this point no, and I have reasons for that.” Commissioners John Allocco swiftly agreed, as did Commissioner Steve Champion, leaving Commissioner Nicholson to dissent.
That quickly closed discussion on raising taxes and Dukes said “the item is finished.”
Comm. Mitten explained at the conclusion of the vote “For me the process of how we got her is troubling at times and for most of you. I had one week to prepare for this and I find that the this is the 3rd time in a year and a half that we’ve addressed MSTU, and I believe each time without the sheriff recognizing it until it’s been put on notice publicly – certainly at the last second.” Mitten chastised the Board by stating, “I find that systemically incoherent to do that sort of a process…Mitten goes on to say “I would very much recommend and ask that when that occurs that we have open dialogue over a period of time.”
Dukes responded, “I believe in my heart that it will never be mentioned as long as this board is here.”
Dukes moved on to the Sheriff’s Budget request and once again asked Mitten if he would consider a motion to approve the request. Before Dukes could finish his question Mitten stated “I would make that motion.” The crowd broke out into cheers and applause at Mitten’s quick response but Dukes said “Well lets don’t get that far, let everybody have their discussion first and then I’ll come back to you.” Once again the crowd burst into laughter and cheers as Mitten responded “That’s pretty much my discussion.” Allocco seconded the motion and Champion who said “For the record, every single meeting this year I’ve brought up to this board to resolve this issue with the sheriff. So I believe we are doing the right thing.” Commissioner Nick Nicholson asked Budget Management Analyst Pamela Lee step to the podium, where he asked Lee to explain where the money was coming from. Lee stated “We feel comfortable with taking the 1.2 from what we project to be our balance forward from the year end close.” Lee explained that the money will be in the form of a resolution and not considered a withdrawal from the reserves.Dukes put a damper on the celebration when he warned the commission that there are still budget issues with Hernando County Fire Rescue. Dukes said “Next year when the sheriff comes back with the same budget, we can’t take it out of reserves, we can’t always wait for a mid-year adjustment. The option is, and you know what that is – raise taxes.” Allocco responded, “I’m looking forward to not having these battles so that we can focus on economic development in this county and that will solve a lot of these problems.”
In the statement to RNRF regarding the Board’s decision, Sheriff Nienhuis said “I want to thank everyone who supports the men and women of the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
I have to express a SPECIAL THANK YOU to those of you who have supported us during my recent budget appeal. It appears as though it has been resolved – because of your support.
Your response was amazing and humbling.
Thank you is inadequate to express how much your support means to each of us at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
We promise to never take that for support granted and we will do our very best to never intentionally let you down.”
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