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Sarasota Wednesday, May 1, 2019 3 weeks ago

Previous county cuts play role in rosier outlook

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County Financial Manager says she feels comfortable that the county is "on target" with its current 2019 budget.
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

As Sarasota County commissioners prepare for the next fiscal year, the financial anxiety of past budget seasons seems in short supply. But it was that concern over future budget shortfalls, and the actions that followed, that likely played a role in the rosier outlook of county officials this time around, the county’s financial director said.

In 2017, commissioners felt concerned about the possibility of Florida voters approving a pair of measures that would have cut into county property-tax revenues statewide. To prepare, in  January 2018, Sarasota commissioners approved $5 million in cuts to recurring expenses to prepare for the possibility of both measures passing. They also considered surplus land sales to help recoup savings needed to balance the last budget they passed.

Following those moves, in April 2018, county staff reported that the budget’s major revenues against expenses were trending in the right direction. By November 2018, voters approved only one of the measures, reducing the impact on future budgets.

And when Financial Management Director Kim Radke recently briefed commissioners on the status of the county’s finances, she reported that the current budget’s major revenue was up 6.7% over projections and general revenue was up 6.5%.

At the midway point in the fiscal year, the county had spent 42% of projected expenses, meaning the county may be halfway through the fiscal year, but it has not yet spent half of the allotted money.

Radtke said the trend is positive. Financial staff members at a recent workshop noted that the county’s general fund may retain a small surplus of money by 2024 that hasn’t been seen since before 2008.

Commissioners liked what they were told.

“Looking forward, it looks like we’ll be in great shape as we build the budget for fiscal year 2020,” Commissioner Al Maio said.

Moreover, Radtke says she believes the county can continue the trend.

“There are some things that I’d like to see that are good for this community, without need for increased revenue,” she said.

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