Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Lower tax rate is first step
Taxpayers are unlikely to see big savings because of the rising cost of running the jail.
By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published July 26, 2007
Richard Nugent cited savings he has made in the Sheriff's Office.
BROOKSVILLE - County commissioners gave initial approval to a lower tax rate Wednesday for the coming year and said they wanted to see taxes cut even more.
They did not, however, specify where those cuts should come. Instead, they spent much of their meeting talking about things - notably public safety services - they don't want to lose from the budgets they oversee.
County Administrator Gary Kuhl outlined where his staff already has suggested whacking more than $9-million, with $7-million coming from the proposed $125-million general fund budget.
He also pointed out the interesting wrinkle that much of the savings that taxpayers would see from the general fund cuts are likely to be wiped out by the increasing costs of running the county jail.
The cuts Kuhl brought to the board include $1.5-million that had been slated for a new cooperative extension service office; an expansion at Animal Services; and remodeling of the third floor of the courthouse.
Also, county department heads have found $1.6-million in cuts; 44 vacant positions will not be filled; some road projects are delayed; and the county's reserves have been cut.
Sheriff Richard Nugent also has agreed to reduce the size of his budget increase by $1-million. Nugent's proposed budget of nearly $32-million, in fact, attracted the most attention on Wednesday.
The sheriff highlighted the increasing number of calls for service, traffic reports, citations written and arrests made over the last several years. Over that time, the bite his budget has taken from the general fund has dropped from 28 percent to 25 percent, Nugent told commissioners.
Meanwhile, he added, response time to calls has improved. The sheriff also said his office has saved money by shrinking the size of the command staff and making some sworn employees into civilians.
Commissioner Dave Russell asked Nugent if he would work with the county on a more efficient way to provide courthouse security. Currently, Nugent has deputies at security checkpoints on three floors of the building.
"It's not cost effective the way that we do it," Nugent agreed.
Kuhl told commissioners that staff had found ways to cut 10.5 percent of the general fund budget, but much of those savings are expected to be wiped out by the additional $4-million the county expects to pay in 2008 for the operation of the jail.
The number of inmates had been predicted to increase 1.4 percent per month, but it has actually increased by about 2 percent per month.
Jim Gantt, director of purchasing and contracts, detailed how the numbers of in-county inmates were soaring as was the jail's spending, climbing from $4.5-million in 2002 to $12-million this year.
County and jail officials have been discussing ways to ease the crunch through options such as using more electronic monitoring. The jail has agreed to rearrange the living spaces in the existing facility, which could save about $500,000.
Kuhl also told commissioners the constitutional officers' budgets, which are part of the county budget, have increased an average of nearly 4 percent. Commissioners have said they want those officials to share the burden of budget cuts.
Other than Nugent, the only other constitutional officer to speak Wednesday was Tax Collector Juanita Sikes, who told the board that what they paid her office was mandated by law and that she returned much of the money collected back to the county.
Sikes also noted that her increase for next year is far smaller than previous years' increases and that there was nowhere else to cut. Commissioner Chris Kingsley pointed out that even a small increase is not the same as a budget cut, which is what the board requested.
The commission gave tentative approval to a tax rate of 6.77 mills compared to last year's 7.81 mills. A mill is $1 in tax for each $1,000 in appraised taxable property value. For the owner of a $125,000 house with the $25,000 homestead exemption, the tax bill to support county services would be $677 for the coming year compared to this year's bill of $781.
Several residents asked questions about the budget and the spending and several urged tax relief.
Russell said he wanted to see that, too, and he saw the board's action Wednesday as a good first step. Kingsley agreed, urging commissioners to bring specific ideas for cuts to the county staff.
The commission canceled plans for another budget meeting that had been set for today. The first public hearing on the budget is 5:01 p.m. Sept. 13.