The Last Showdown Before the Budget Dispute Goes to Tallahassee
The answer is "No."
The Alachua County Board of Commissioners voted this afternoon to deny Sheriff Sadie Darnell's Budget Amendment Request of $500,000.
Sheriff Darnell decided to appeal her budget to the Governor weeks ago. But both sides hoped they could work out a compromise on their own, until today.
Commissioner Mike Byerly said, "We've made our decision, we're moving on...Sheriff you have a right to sue us if you wish to, but the Board has made it's decision."
The motion made by Commissioner Susan Baird and seconded by Chair Lee Pinkoson, to apply a portion of the Sheriff's $700,000 in end of the year savings to the deficit, was not adopted. With Commissioners Rodney Long and Mike Byerly voting as before, to maintain the adopted budget. Commissioner Paula DeLaney, who had been undecided, joined them, while trying to shift the focus to the even bigger budget issues yet to come.
DeLaney said, "I would respectfully request that the Sheriff withdraw her appeal and work with us. I'm willing to pledge today to give you that money...I'm willing to raise the taxes, I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Before the vote, the Sheriff tried again to convince Commissioners to approve her Budget Amendment Request. Darnell said, "I need a decision today, the public deserves a decision...if I'm to go to Tallahassee, then I am more than able to do that...I'm not so willing when I do see a compromise here that Commissioner Baird has offered."
7 residents also came forward...all in favor of the Sheriff getting the money. There was also much discussion about statistical comparisons between Alachua County's law enforcement staffing and funding and that of the other 66 sheriff's offices in the state.
Byerly said, "Even with the 500 thousand dollars in dispute, we are amply funding public safety. We are among the top counties in the state. Public safety is the top priority of the County Commission and the county...and our budget and all our actions reflect that."
But the Sheriff countered that statistics don't give the whole picture and said she will have to have the money within months because of an unfunded insurance mandate. Ultimately though, the appeal will run its course.
Darnell said, "If that's the vote of the body of this commission, then so be it. Let's move on."
The appeals process involves reconciliation attempts, and all the assertions brought up by the County and the Sheriff will be evaluated by the state. It's been a long, drawn out battle, that will stay with Alachua County, even as the process of tackling next year's budget begins.
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