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Sheriff and State Attorney Seek More Money in Next Year's Budget

Sheriff Steube
Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube

BRADENTON – Funding for local law enforcement and Manatee County's Drug Court program were sticking points of Thursday's Constitutional Officers Budget Presentation, which was followed by a Public Hearing, that justifiably frustrated those in attendance, as proper budget info was not available in light of the presumption that Tuesday's sales tax referendum would pass.

State Attorney Ed Brodsky was present to request increased funding for Drug Court, and Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube pleaded his case for additional funding which would partly go toward putting more officers on the beat and in corrections.

The proposed budget for Manatee County Drug Court that Brodsky presented for FY 2014 was for $745,760, which includes almost $66,000 in extra funding for salary reimbursement "for the staff necessary to support (the program)."

Brodsky stressed what he called the vital importance of Drug Court, which he said has helped identify a large number of people with drug abuse problems that normally go through the criminal justice system, who greatly benefit from the program.

Court system official Walt Smith also spoke in support of funding for the program. The three counselors in the program, he said, are already overloaded with the number of offenders they work with. Smith warned that the program would have to stop taking people if an additional counselor was not added.

"We'll have to wait until somebody goes out of Drug Court in order to add somebody, and that's going to keep people in jail longer," Smith explained, adding that drug offenders who miss out on the treatment programs Drug Court provides would be more likely to relapse and commit crimes to support their addiction when they are released from jail.

During his time at the dais, Sheriff Brad Steube presented to commissoners a 2013-14 budget that would be an increase more than $7.5 million over the current fiscal year. Part of the increase was a requested $3 million for salaries, which Steube noted were exceptionally low compared to surrounding counties, plus $1.5 million to help fund the Sherrif's Office contribution to the Florida Retirement System.

Later on, at the start of the public hearing for the 2013-14 budget, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said the public would be provided with an opportunity to comment on the 2013-14 budget. But there was not much that could be commented on, as the hearing contained no new visual information on the budget.

All of that information had to be scrapped because part of the financial data included revenue from the indigent care tax, which failed to pass in Tuesday's referendum vote. After adjournment, County Commissioner Robin DiSabatino expressed disappointment that the BOCC had not prepared a presentation that did not include the healthcare tax, as there existed the very real possibility that it would not pass. 


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