Hillsborough Commissioner: Let's talk about the budget now
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03/04/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Tuesday night, the Pinellas County Commission held a public hearing where local citizens could weigh in on how the county should deal with spending cuts that will have to be made as they prepare next fiscal year’s budget.

In Hillsborough, County Commissioner Al Higgenbotham says its incumbent for the government to be vigilant and do whatever it can to help the local citizenry in these challenging economic times.

So Higgenbotham today was able to cajole other board members to get a budget workshop for the end of this month, rather than wait until their first meeting in April.

But County Budget Director Eric Johnson didn't think that was necessary. Johnson said he would brief the Commission in two weeks, but didn’t have any subjects that would merit carving out more time for a later meeting.

Higgenbotham said that it would be irresponsible not to have a workshop for another month. Higgenbotham said that as elected officials, the citizenry will be looking with a close eye as to how they go about handling cutting the budget, and so he wants as much information as possible to be presented by the county’s budget department.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe seconded Higgenbotham’s motion, and said he had recently spoken with state Sen. Ronda Storms and other state representatives, and the news wasn’t good.

Sharpe said in the past, commissioners could give pay increases to some employees, or departments, but no more.

Johnson told lawmakers that the County has cut $168 million in the past two years, so he’s confident that they’ll be able to do it again this year. And Johnson will come back before the Board to discuss the state of the county’s budget on March 31.

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