Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker today put forth a $497 million net budget for next year, which is $33.7 million less than this year’s budget due to significant declines in revenue.
“As in years past, we are continuing to downsize government,” Hunzeker told Manatee County commissioners. “We’ll probably continue to do so for the next few years.”
Declining property values have resulted in a $16 million reduction in property tax revenues. As a direct effect, nearly every taxpayer-funded program and activity will see belt tightening.
The county was able to avoid large-scale workforce and service reductions by employing reserves and by spreading cuts. Hunzeker said the commission’s past decisions to save money are helping “immensely” in avoiding significant service reductions to the community.
Manatee’s constitutional officers, including the Manatee County sheriff, worked with the county reducing their budgets by about 5% next year. A total of about 100 positions have been eliminated, including 82 positions from the county administrator’s budget and about 20 from constitutional officers’ budgets.
The county administrator recommended budget reductions based on priorities and spread throughout county-funded programs and services. The recommendations do not stretch any program to a point at which it could not continue.
It is the second year of Hunzeker’s zero-based budgeting plan whereby each Manatee County service and program was broken down into a series of decision units. Top priorities are funded first, and greater levels of service are approved if funding is available.
The Manatee Board of County Commissioners will address the finer details of the budget during a series of workshops in June. The public will have its best chance to weigh in on the budget during a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m., June 18.
The County Administrator’s 2009-10 budget message can be found at www.mymanatee.org.