BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's BOCC Budget Meeting, the previously-proposed millage tax increase, designed to supply 20 additional deputies for Sheriff Stuebe, was shelved when Manatee County Commissioners voted to go with an alternative plan. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Sheriff Stuebe worked-out a variety of plans for commissioners to consider, some that would generate the capital Stuebe said he needed to run his department and others that fell short.
Plan number four was chosen, the last on their list. It would produce $800,000 from reserve and impact fees, but only supply half of what the Sheriff requested. While the millage tax rate increase proposed would have added $7.10 for every $100,000 of property value, it would have provided all of the requested revenue.
County commissioners felt it a hard sell and were concerned the public might see the mill rate increase as a tax hike. But commissioners that argued against that perspective said tax revenues had actually fallen for property owners from lower property appraisals, and even with the millage increase, the public would save a total of $6.1 million in property taxes.
Those commissioners that took exception to that view were Commissioner Donna Hayes and Commissioner Larry Bustle. They both insisted it would only be seen as a tax increase. Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, "The fireman are raising their tax, and the food banks, stock market, I just think we need to be prudent."
The compassion for the sheriff needs were obvious. Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said, "I just want to keep the boots on the ground," but also felt a new millage rate was too much right now.
The room was full of struggle, and no doubt all would leave with hopes that another source of revenue would emerge for next year's budget that would get the sheriff the remainder of deputies he feels he needs for his department. In September, commissioners will have their final vote on the budget.
After the vote, unanimously approving plan number four moving forward, Sheriff Stuebe said "I'm not through yet" and proceeded to discuss the long standing "property and evidence" debacle, where for over two years his department has been baseballing evidence around the county from seven different locations, filing and tagging their every move. He said, "It's got to stop." Commissioners are moving forward with funds, but have yet to decide on a single location or whether if in fact, a single location is to be used a measure Steube insists is imperative.
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