BRADENTON -- Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube's patience seems to be wearing thin. On Tuesday, he returned again to listen to the Manatee County Commissioners say: We love you, but we can't afford you. Commissioners had praise for the men and women who risk their lives, but quickly returned to the county's bottom line, which is tapped and out of funds.
Driving in the middle of the road is the most dangerous part of any highway, yet the BOCC often sees it as a comfort zone. Sheriff Steube has some good arguments for his requested $5.5 million in additional funds, but commissioners say they haven't got it now, and the sheriff says he needed it yesterday.
State legislators have cut fiscal support for local governments to the bone. Some see this as a good thing, until programs that have enormous bang for the buck get canned. The commission is struggling with the real value in many of the county's programs and question whether the Sheriff is prudent enough.
Steube says, "Other employees don't have to wear a vest, answer domestic disturbance calls, and pull over a suspicious car." He claims the budget in 2009 was $97 million and now he has proposed a 2013 budget of $92.1 million. He says any more would compromise the department.
The $5.5 million he is requesting is for deputy salary compensation. Steube says his deputies haven't had a raise for years and are at the bottom of the pay scale when compared to all other regional departments. He argued, "Rookies can start out in other departments for more then a seasoned deputy receives here."
Some question the strength of that argument, but acknowledge Steube's fleet reduction, extended maintenance and deputy reduction as honest efforts to reduce his budget, just not enough under in the current economic environment when county revenues continue to fall year after year.
Commissioners seemed to have apprehensions in totally accepting Steube's position, and may be looking for more effort from him to find the middle of the road. This week's workshops may tell.