Here are the big cuts from each department, approved on Jan. 31 by the County Commission.
The Sarasota County Commission approved $5.4 million in cuts to recurring expenses on Jan. 31 in an effort to head off budget shortfalls in the future. Some of those cuts go into effect immediately, starting the cost savings as soon as April of this year. Others don’t go into effect until the next fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
Of the $5.4 million in cuts, $1.4 million were identified by the departments collectively as areas that could be cut right away, and without any impact on levels of service, such as leaving a current unfilled position vacant.
Previously, the County Commission was gearing up to make about $11 million in recurring cuts starting in fiscal year 2019 because it was concerned about the financial implications of a pair of statewide referendums that could cut into local revenue. County Administrator Jonathan Lewis proposed a different approach, taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the effects of the fall referendums.
Here are some of the bigger-ticket items proposed to cut. View the complete list here.
Three bus routes are being cut within the next year, pending a public hearing process. Route 18, between Longboat Key and downtown Sarasota; Route 100, between the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and North Port; and Route 13, which serves Venice and South Venice. Additionally, the Saturday schedule will be reduced to the same operating schedule as Sundays.
Parks, Recreation and Natural Services
Many of this department’s cuts equalled less than $50,000. However, the county chose not to jointly renovate multi-purpose fields in Venice in conjunction with the school district, saving $300,000. The commission also approved reduced or delayed corrective or routine maintenance activities, including repairs to amenities such as fencing and playgrounds, delaying turf replacement at fields and reducing routine maintenance like cleaning, painting or mowing. Commissioners rejected an increase in user fees on athletic fields that would have generated $40,000.
One of this department’s major goals was to “enhance existing infrastructure,” but to save almost $300,000, appearance-focused expenditures that don’t impact health and safety will be eliminated. Additionally, the operating costs of the Sheriff’s Office headquarters will be reduced and the HVAC preventative maintenance frequency schedule will be amended.
Libraries and Historical Resources
To save $250,000, the libraries plan to cut by almost 50% money used to pay for online subscriptions and buy hard-copy materials by 26%. The commissioners rejected a plan to close libraries on Mondays. That would have saved $200,000.
Public Works’ only cut was to reduce the number of mowing cycles the county has contracted out from 26 to 20, with the option to add back in three cycles depending on environmental factors.
Office of Financial Management
Reductions in the county’s budget for training and certification, as well as a reduction in overtime funding, were approved in this department.
Lifeguard hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day on county beaches will no longer be extended. Previously, the extra two hours a day for the three months cost $1,200 per day.
The county’s budget for background checks was reduced by one-third.
Reduced funds to replace equipment and minimize deferred maintenance.
Efforts to conduct sustainability education and outreach will be limited.