The Alachua County Budget Battle is Over...
She didn't get the money.
In the final budget meeting for the new fiscal year, the Alachua County Commission did not give in to Sheriff Sadie Darnell's pleas for an extra half million dollars.
Despite renewed calls by residents for adding money to the Sheriff's Office budget, Commissioners approved the new budget and millage rates without any changes.
But the Sheriff may have an alternative solution. And even though the County Commission didn't give in, there was an important change in tone in tonight's debate.
The tone of the past few meetings has been tense, with what some call a battle of wills and egos going on between Commissioners and the Sheriff.
But tonight the Sheriff made a recommendation that seemed to help change the atmosphere.
Sheriff Darnell said that the she now expects a $400,000 or more surplus at the end of this year because of savings by the Sheriff's Office.
She asked the Commissioners to apply those funds to the $507,000 difference, to end the stalemate.
But, Commissioner Mike Byerly stated concern over making that guarantee in the "eleventh hour." And said they need more time to discuss a possible amendment to the budget.
Byerly also expressed frustration at the way the debate has been perceived. He said, "The facts don't seem to factor into the discussion. It becomes who's for who, who trusts who, who likes more who, who's being disrespectful. We should be looking at the demand for public services and how much we allocate of the public's money to deal with the problem."
Many residents addressed the Commission. Both to praise funding allocations in social programs and to defend Sheriff Darnell's budget stance.
In the end, the budget was officially adopted without changing the Sheriff's funding, with commitments from Commissioners Long, Pinkoson and DeLaney to consider the Sheriff's proposal.
Sheriff Darnell said she's hopeful that the solution will be found in her end of the year surplus. She said, "I'm very confident that there's gonna be a significant amount of money saved. We dodged a bullet with the Dove Outreach. It wasn't as expensive as we thought. We haven't had the hurricanes we sometimes have. There will be savings. I'm asking them to be reasonable and to apply that savings to the $507,000 and I'm hopeful that they will do that."
It will take weeks to confirm the size of the Sheriff's surplus and whether Commissioners will choose to let Darnell keep it.
Since Darnell has only 30 days to appeal the budget to the Governor, she plans to do just that...just in case.
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