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Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 5 years ago

County Commission approves $2 million spending increase

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Sarasota County’s budget will grow so grass doesn’t get the chance.

Two months after Sarasota County commissioners chose baseball-field maintenance and roadside mowing as major future priorities, County Administrator Randall Reid asked the commission for the funds to reach that goal.

“The theme of this year’s budget is ‘the road ahead,’” Reid said during the introduction of the Feb. 8 budget workshop.

The initial cost to start down that road is $2 million, which county staff requested to be added to the current fiscal year budget to hire 43 new full-time employees and buy landscaping equipment.

Commissioners approved staff recommendations for the additions, which will also add roughly $1 million to future annual budgets, according to the workshop presentation. Staff will bring back budget amendments for the $2 million increase. The $1 million addition will be considered in future budgets.

The spending is part of a plan Reid has to de-tangle the county Operations and Maintenance Department. Former County Attorney Jim Ley bundled maintenance of most county facilities.

The troubled department was at the center of the 2012 mowing fiasco that grew out of a failed median and roadside-maintenance contract. An audit by Sarasota Clerk of the Court Karen Rushing cited nearly $190,000 in purchase orders filed for unperformed mowing.

The county also moved athletic-field maintenance out of the Parks and Recreation Department. Commissioners directed Reid to move ahead with his plan to restore oversight of field maintenance to Parks and Recreation.

County staff will draft a budget amendment that adds two irrigation and two pest-control technicians and combines field maintenance and field user group agreement oversight into one division.

“This is a plan I can certainly sign on to because it is a plan; it’s not just adding folks,” said Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson.

Budget workshop by the numbers
43 — full-time positions county staff requested
110 — athletic fields under county maintenance
231 — funds that make up the Sarasota County budget
2,324 — miles of county maintained roads
$3.8 — billion estimated value of roads
$4.8 — million current annual road re-surfacing budget
$10 — million amount staff wants for the annual re-surfacing budget
$4.5 — million needed to finish re-surfacing projects in 2013

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