Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles is continuing to push for a big budget increase, despite resistance by county administration.
During the Pasco County Commission’s consideration of next fiscal year’s property tax rate, the clerk sought permission to address the budget.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley allowed her to speak, but shortly after she began, Commissioner Mike Moore interjected: “We cannot have these conversations. This is the board, actually debating the budget.
“If we’re going to allow all constitutionals to debate their budget request, we have to bring all of them in here and have that,” Moore said.
The clerk said that anyone from the public is free to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, but Moore said it wasn’t appropriate for remarks to be part of the board’s deliberations.
So, the clerk said she would wait until the miscellaneous business portion of the meeting during which she’s allowed to bring issues to the board.
At that point in the meeting, Alvarez-Sowles told board members she had met with County Administrator Dan Biles.
During that meeting, she said Biles acknowledged “that the commission has a legal obligation to fund IT and that they are funding it at 40%” of her IT request.
“I just wanted to state that funding it at 40% of the request is inadequate to meet the needs of my office and the requirements of the law,” Alvarez-Sowles said. “I would like to have the full funding of IT for fiscal year 2022.”
Alvarez had spelled out her request in an April 30 letter to Commission Chairman Ron Oakley and the Pasco County Commission.
In that letter, she told commissioners that her budget request was for $13,284,195, resulting in $8,992,936 in additional funding.
At the July 6 county board meeting, Alvarez-Sowles said: “I recognize that my request is more than the county administration would like, however, it is based specifically on the commission’s legal funding obligations and the reasonable needs of my office.
Her April 30 letter also noted: “Since 2010, Pasco’s population increased by 19% and the county increased staffing by 39% to provide additional services. In that same time frame, the clerk’s office cut 11 % of its positions due to funding shortages.”
At the board meeting, she reiterated those issues and told commissioners, “the funding situation in my office is just unsustainable.”
Alvarez-Sowles also noted that the emphasis during the board’s June 8 meeting was on property tax revenue, but said there also are other unrestricted revenues that go into the general revenue account, such as sales tax and state revenue sharing.
She said the county board “is responsible for determining and setting its funding priorities” and she told the board that the clerk’s office should be among its highest priorities, along the same lines as public safety — the sheriff’s office and firefighters.
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder weighed in on the issue.
“Mr. Chairman, there appears to be a fundamental dispute between the administrator and the clerk with regard to whether or not what the clerk is asking for, is in fact, a local requirement.
“It boils down to — for large scale — whether or not the West Pasco Judicial Center is a local requirement.
“The clerk’s position is that it is. The county’s position is that it’s not,” Steinsnyder said.
Published July 14, 2021
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