Nearly $11 million in cuts across several departments has brought Lee County into a better position as it stares down a deficit before its first budget hearing Sept. 8.
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott agreed to cut another $1.6 million, or 4 percent, from his information technology and vehicle fleet, said Pete Winton, assistant city manager.
The sheriff’s proposed $150 million budget accounts for about 40 percent of the county’s $379 million general fund budget.
“That is something that is truly appreciated,” Winton said of the additional cuts.
Scott said last week he would not follow a county administration recommendation to implement furloughs to cut about 4 percent in pay.
Administrators at that time said they would continue to work with the sheriff’s office and other constitutional offices to find savings.
Supervisor of Elections, Sharon Harrington, also found 4 percent to cut in other areas.
Cuts to Emergency Medical Services and the transit department will save $3.6 million. Increased insurance costs to employees while cutting their pay 4 percent with furloughs is expected to save another $1.7 million.
With the additional cost savings, the county’s deficit shrank from about $70 million to about $58 million.
One-time payments into the general fund will cover most of the deficit requiring the county to dip into its reserves for about $8 million.
Still, the county will face these double-digit deficits over the next few years.
To change that, “it’s going to take a combination, going into the future ... of both cuts and millage rate adjustments,” Winton said.
Commission chairwoman Tammy Hall said erasing the deficit “means we’re going to have to start cutting into programs.”
But Commissioner Brian Bigelow criticized the talk of service cuts without agreeing to cut salaries even more.
He has advocated for 10 percent salary cuts that would bring in another $1.7 million, as well as proposing the sheriff cut his budget significantly.
The final budget hearing is Sept. 23.