BOCC Passes Final Budget

Manatee County CFO Sheila McLean delivers the budget presentation.
Manatee County CFO Sheila McLean delivers the budget presentation.
Dennis "Mitch" Maley
BRADENTON — On Wednesday evening, Manatee County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the budget for the next fiscal year. The plan includes reducing next year’s property tax rate by .30 mills. The Holmes Beach Police Department and the Manatee County Clerk of the Court's office, two organizations that have found themselves at odds with the board's majority this year, each saw requests for increases denied.

Flush with massive property value increases, the total annual gross budget reaches nearly $2.4 billion, with a net spending budget of more than $1.072 billion, while also allowing commissioners to cut the property tax rate for the second year in a row.

The board also approved the largest five-year Capital Improvement Plan in Manatee County history, totaling more than $2.3 billion in investments in infrastructure, public safety, parks, and the environment. The budget invests $435 million in transportation projects, $132 million in parks, and $48 million in public safety projects.

Some of the 55 new positions added to the county budget include five new 9-1-1 emergency telecommunicators, six new positions in the Development Services Department to "respond to increased demand for development review and building inspection services," 17 new library staff positions, including staff for the new Lakewood Ranch Library scheduled to be completed in September 2023, while two Guardian ad Litem positions were added, one case manager and one attorney.

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells’ annual budget of $172 million was fully funded.

Clerk of the Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso, whose office oversees the county inspector general's office, saw her request for two additional IG investigators rebuked. The IG department was conducting an audit as to the manner in which the county handles public records, an area in which Hopes' administration had received much criticism (and has thus far lost one lawsuit while facing another on the matter) when her budget request was flagged this summer

Colonneso also issued a letter to commissioners in which she expressed concerns over "fiscal responsibility" issues within Hopes' administration just ahead of the board's vote on whether to renew the administrator's contract.

Colonneso's office has come in $12,000 under budget this year and $47,000 under over the past two budget years, but told commissioners that continued population growth (Manatee's population has increased from 338,000 to over 430,000 since she took office) and growth in government has necessitated increases.

At Wednesday's budget hearing, commissioners Carol Whitmore and Misty Servia, who supported the additional IG staff, said they believed that the flagged item was going to come back before them for presentation and discussion.

"I'm upset that the process wasn't honored," said Servia. "I'm upset that we're not giving a constitutional officer what she needs in order to audit the finances of this county government, and I just wanna say that for the record. We should be providing those two positions."

Lieutenant Brian Hall from the Holmes Beach Police Department said that while the city receives about $46,000 for the contract of providing police service at the public beach and county-owned Kingfish Boat Ramp, they were told that despite documented increases in activity at both, no increase would be budgeted this year.

County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbirdge has been engaged in a very public feud with the island city over what he feels is inadequate public parking on the island and has, on multiple occasions, threatened punitive measures through budget funding. 

Reader Comments
Cat L
SEP 16, 2022  •  Of course there was a retaliatory response.... because that's who KVO is. He doesn't see past his own nose.
Christine Wright
SEP 16, 2022  •  Since they approved Sheriff Wells entire budget, HBPD should call MCSO for assistance with beach and boat ramp patrol EVERY DAY. Make the county pay their share for policing the areas they keep advertising people to visit.
SEP 16, 2022  •  Again we see bullies against Holmes Beach and Angel Colonneso (clerk of court) both doing the right thing and again were denied the funds they need to run their offices. It’s like a Nana Nana boo-boo I’m holding this over your head, what idiots the commissioners are that voted against this when is it gonna stop.
SEP 16, 2022  •  We live in a less entertaining version of Hazzard County. Sadly, we have no Daisy Dukes or handsome Duke boys in our neck of the woods. We do, on the other hand, have a Boss Hogg.
Pat Benson
SEP 16, 2022  •  This County Commission will do whatever they want and until the residents of this county understand the childlike behavior of these commissioners, nothing will change. My tax rate went up because the value of our homes have increased. The commissioners have given us nothing but heart aches.