The Sheriff Takes the Budget Battle to Tallahassee
It's official. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell has taken her budget battle with the County Commission to Tallahassee.
The Sheriff filed her budget appeal with the Administration Commission of the State of Florida today. By state statute, Sheriff's Offices have the last resort of taking their budget disagreements to the Governor and his cabinet. And Darnell is following through on her ultimatum.
When the county's budget reductions were presented to the constitutional officers, Sheriff Darnell said she couldn't take any more cuts.
Throughout the budget discussion with the Board of County Commissioners, Darnell said that if they wouldn't agree to give her the half million dollars she says she needs to make her budget work, then she would fight it. Darnell said, "I've done my part."
Darnell also said the Commission is being unreasonable. She said, "But there was a stone wall that was hit by the Chair of the County Commission and it seemed to be no movement from there."
Each of the four times the Sheriff spoke to the Commissioners in budget meetings, she maintained that she has to have $507,000.
She said, "The bulk of the money, of the 507 is related to retirement increases and health insurance. Typically and historically Alachua County has funded those increases because they are core benefits to employees. They're not non-essential benefits...you can't not fund those."
The Sheriff proposed several plans to make up the deficit, most recently to apply her end of the year savings to the amount. But the County has maintained that Darnell will have to work within her budget constraints. And they are working on their response to the Sheriff right now.
Alachua County Communications Coordinator Mark Sexton said, "Now we're just taking very methodically and very carefully and certainly the manager and the attorney will have to sign off on it by Friday. That's the deadline that we're under, so unfortunately we don't have a lot to say about it right now because it's a pending legal issue."
Darnell said she has requested to appear one more time before the Board to work things out on November 9th. And she expressed confidence that a solution not involving the Governor can be found. She said, "But I certainly want to try again. I'm certainly hopeful and I think I'm trying my best to be collaborative and to be reasonable in what I'm asking."
This is not the first time an Alachua County Sheriff has gone to the governor over a $500,000 dispute.
In 1999 then Sheriff, Steve Oelrich, appealed his budget with the Governor after County Commissioners wouldn't approve $551,000 to hire 10 new deputies.
They eventually reached a compromise during the appeals process. But Sheriff Darnell said she hopes it won't go that far. And a compromise will be found at the next meeting on November 9th.
We'll keep you updated as the appeals process continues and as the County responds.
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