County Commissioners Still Divided On the Sheriff's Budget
The decision is in, but it's not really a decision at all...Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and the Board of County Commissioners have been going back and forth for months over half a million dollars for her budget.
Sheriff Darnell went before the Board today with a proposal to use money from the $700,000 in savings from last year's sheriff's budget.
But the budget battle is still at a stalemate.
After the Sheriff presented her amendment proposal today, the Board was split two and two, with Commissioner Paula DeLaney emerging as the swing vote.
DeLaney said from the beginning of the discussion that she realized it was up to her, but wasn't ready to decide either way.
Sheriff Darnell said, "The public is tired of hearing this issue and they do want us to resolve it."
The Sheriff and Commissioners Lee Pinkoson and Susan Baird, said the public deserves a speedy resolution. And they believe that resolution is to give the Sheriff the money she's asking for now, instead of going through the state appeals process.
But, Commissioners Mike Byerly and Rodney Long said they are willing to let the appeal run its course. Byerly said, "The almost hysterical tone of the budget discussion last year, that if we don't provide this half a million dollars, then the public is gonna be vulnerable and safety is gonna be compromised is simply not credible."
Commissioner Byerly, stood by the Board's original budget and said that Alachua County is one of the most heavily policed counties in the state, even with budget cuts. But Darnell took issue with Byerly's assertion that the $500,000 won't affect service. Darnell said, "We're scratching by and making it through, but we never know what's gonna happen and that's what's so different from our world as opposed to the county's world. We're a 24-7, 365 day a year operation for the most part."
While Byerly and long defended their stance of not giving in, Baird and Pinkoson argued for resolution. Baird said, "The Sheriff has done such a fabulous job, I've gotten so many calls stating: please fund that amount. Here she's been a good steward of that savings, then bring to the table an additional 700,000 or more..."
DeLaney said she understands both sides of the issue, but isn't ready to make the decision yet. Possible solutions were discussed, such as a conference to resolve the issue without the state appeal, or using reserve funds if there is a true emergency. Or they could still decide to allow the Sheriff's end of the year savings to be applied to the deficit.
But for now, everyone is waiting to find out which way Commissioner DeLaney will vote on December 7th. Commissioner Pinkoson said, "Maybe perhaps, the Sheriff and Commissioner DeLaney will continue their conversation and perhaps there could be some resolution that was put out on the table."
Commissioners will vote on whether to allow the Sheriff to use the over $700,000 she turned in as her end of the year savings to make up the deficit or to put those funds in the county reserve fund for other use.
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