Hillsborough Commission reviews its budget

12/17/08 Mitch E. Perry
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As Florida’s House members were learning the ramifications of the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, Hillsborough County Commissioners were getting a local take on the dire picture.

The Board did get some relatively good news from Chris Lancamera is ddirector of finance with the Clerk of the Board. She told the Board that they don’t have to worry about the safety of the portfolio, but she said she wasn’t as optimistic about interest earnings, especially after the fed cut its target interest rate on Tuesday between zero and a quarter percentage point.

Mike Merrill is utilities and commerce administrator with the county. He told the Board that the entire market is seized up with concerns about risk, and until the issue of transparency is addressed, that fear of risk isn’t going away.

County Budget Director Eric Johnson also sounded measured in saying that Hillsborough County should be in decent shape all things considered, but does expect the county to have less revenues in a year.

When asked by Commissioner Kevin Beckner at what point might the county need to dip into its reserve fund as monies from the state dry up, Johnson said his department will be reviewing that possibility regularly.

A big federal economic stimulus bill is expected to be passed early next. After President-elect Obama met with most of the Governors in Philadelphia recently, many of them expressed excitement that they had "shovel ready" projects ready to go if they receive such funding.

Commissioner Al Higgenbotham expressed disappointment that the county itself doesn’t have infrastructure projects ready to roll. And Higgenbotham said he wanted to have more, not less transparency with the public in terms of workshops to let everybody know what will be in store in terms of potential reductions of services because of the struggling economy.

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