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Marion County Commission discusses budget during workshop

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) - County commissioners across the region are facing another budget challenge-- less revenue from the state.

As Marion County Commissioners consider their shortfall, they have heard from various department heads over the past three days-- including one of the biggest budgetary expenditures, the Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioners said they get a large portion of the state shared revenue-- that’s sale tax money, but with with sales down statewide down due to COVID-19, this leaves Marion County with an estimated 1.3 million dollar shortfall.

“Marion County is, from my observations, done better than other counties just because we have a less reliance on tourism and our economy here was not as nearly impacted as other counties, but we may be sharing in some of the pain that comes with that,” Budget Director, Michael Tomich said.

So with the impacts of the pandemic, the commission must figure out how to create a balanced budget. One of the biggest challenges so far has been the sheriff’s budget.

“I do have a one percent pay increase that’s for cost of living. My opinion is that I think that is important because we just heard from Villie that property values have increased and that means employees are going to have to pay more as well,” Sheriff Billy Woods said.

Woods also said he’s looking at adding additional positions to the force. This including hiring more deputies and 911 dispatchers.

But commissioners say they’re 2.1 million dollars over budget and have to think carefully.

“I think that it would be prudent for us to at least not do any raises for at least 6 months and then put that money, say if we were going to look at the second half of the year, into some kind of reserve and then we could have a conversation about that mid-year because we don’t know what’s coming down the pipe, we don’t know what our revenue shortfalls are going to be,” Chairman Kathy Bryant said.

The commission will continue the budget workshop Thursday to hear from different agencies including the Ocala Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership and the Heart of Florida Health Center.

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