Pinellas County Mulls Budget Cuts

06/26/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Pinellas County leaders reviewed a list of proposed budget cuts this morning. But with only weeks before the final budget must be sent to the Property Appraiser’s office, County Commissioners realized after the meeting they must make time to meet again to review the proposed cuts. County Administrator Steve Spratt and his staff prepared a report on all of their proposed cuts to get down to the 7% rollback of last year’s budget, based on the mandated cuts approved by the legislature and Governor Crist earlier this month. Most of the cuts presented received little dissent from the Commission – except for one budget line that would remove funding for the County’s DNA testing Lab. County Administrator Spratt said this would be one program that the Board would reconsider Cutting (roll tape#1 o.q.”I know it does”) Commissioner Ken Welch said even though the program runs at a slight deficit, he had to
second Spratt’s sentiments (roll tape#2 o.q.”I think it’d be well worth it”)

Commissioner Karen Seel said she also favored the program, but said she wanted to get quantifiable numbers to determine how effective the program is in reducing the jail time of wrongly convicted suspects (roll tape#3 o.q.”over the long term”)

And following up that suggestion, Seel wondered whether judges would be able to pick up potentially increased caseloads as a result of such testing.

But Commissioner Susan Latvala said Pinellas County judges have already indicated that they could contend with more cases. And she said it was somewhat dubious what statistics could be provided to indicate that DNA testing is worth keeping (roll tape#4 oq.. very much the right thing to do”)

As she reviewed the proposed cuts, Commissioner Latvala expressed frustration about making incremental cuts in so many departments, vs. eliminating them outright. She said she fears that such reductions will reduce the quality of services the County provides(roll tape#5 o.q.”dissastified’)

Commissioners also discussed possibly cutting down on early voting polling sites. They also said that they were going to have to reduce their dues for being involved in associations like the Tampa Bay Estuary and the Florida Association of Counties

Commissioner Bob Stewart said that it was obviously important to make the necessary budget cuts, but he said the County should also look at ways of raising revenues as well -

County leaders have discussed such ‘enhancements’ as upping the entrance fee to Fort DeSoto Park (roll tape#6 o.q.” in services”) Commissioners agreed that they need to have another meeting prior to the County submitting their budget to the Property appraiser. They may add a workshop to their next regularly scheduled Board of County Commissioners meeting, scheduled in 2 weeks, on July 10th.

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