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TALLAHASSEE — The newly minted state budget is a mandate for Dwight Brock, Collier County's clerk of courts: Lay off or furlough the equivalent of 10.5 workers.
His office shed more than 50 employees over four years, down to 180. Now, Brock is incensed. Lawmakers approved a $30 million statewide cut to Clerks of Courts offices late Friday.
"When it comes to the people who do the work in my office, I am an emotional individual," said Brock, who predicts the quality of service will suffer.
Brock isn't the only one angry. His is one of 67 clerks' offices, plus hospitals, universities and school districts that learned of cuts, both shallow and deep, in a $70 billion state budget.
Florida's public sector must be more frugal next fiscal year, local officials said in recent interviews.
Democratic lawmakers, voting symbolically, blasted Republicans for refusing to explore new revenue.
"There is some good in this budget, but we could have done so much more," Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, said before the chamber approved the spending plan at 11:19 p.m. Friday.
And even some Republicans rallied against the budget on principle, decrying member projects — the equivalent of congressional earmarks — that stole millions from other areas. Three Republican senators opposed the budget. It passed the Senate 32-8 and the House on an 80-37 mostly party-line vote.
In Southwest Florida, contingent on whether the governor approves the projects, the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts will receive $300,000, Lee Memorial Health System will receive $1.5 million, Florida Gulf Coast University will receive $4.86 million and the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board will receive $3.25 million for a youth mentoring program.
Gov. Rick Scott has two weeks to decide which, if any, of these to veto.
Millions more will come back to Collier and Lee counties in less specific forms, through environment and education allocations and through incentives and economic development plans.
Pre-K through 12 education
When Scott and legislative leaders talk about the budget, they first mention the $1 billion extra for education.
"The Legislature did do what they said they were going to do: They put $1 billion more state money in," said Vernon A. Pickup-Crawford, a lobbyist for Collier schools. "But that billion dollars makes up for four major costs very quickly."
The four costs: $224 million in non-recurring revenue that would have disappeared, $190 million to pay for 30,000 new students in the system, $238 million to replace lost property tax revenue and $167 million absorbed into pension rate increases.
That leaves about $180 million.
Of that, Collier schools get a shade over $5 million, or about $7,151 per student. It's a 0.65 percent increase per student, the lowest per-student funding increase among school districts in the state.
For Collier, the rate of increase is lower in part because of its high tax base.
Lee County schools' allocation will increase nearly on par with the statewide average: 2.15 percent per student to $6,657 as part of a state raise of $25 million.
But every school's budget is different. A $1 billion increase — even a $180 million net increase — doesn't always mean a surplus.
Factor in federal allocations, a 428-student influx and new curricular requirements, and Collier is facing an $8 million loss, said Michele LaBute, chief operations officer.
"We're not complaining. We're not whining. It is what it is," LaBute said. "I think we got as much support from the Legislature that we could."
How lawmakers fared on priorities
A look at a few of the bills sponsored by Southwest Florida lawmakers and how they fared:
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples:
■ SB 578 would help depopulate Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which many say is too big and a liability to the state. FAILED
■ SB 1282 would allow dispatchers in emergencies to notify nearby facilities equipped with defibrillators of the emergency. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo. PASSED
Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples:
■ HB 87 would reduce tax rates for oil drilling in abandoned wells, which could spur drilling and job creation in Southwest Florida. PASSED AS AMENDMENTS IN OTHER LEGISLATION
■ HB 511 would revise requirements for the reimbursement for repackaged prescription drugs, setting a standard rate. FAILED
Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples:
■ HB 143 would update the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to allow municipalities to ban smoking on public property. FAILED
■ HB 213 would speed up the foreclosure process in an effort to put empty houses back on the market faster. FAILED
On the other hand, Florida's universities will be slapped with a $300 million cut. Lawmakers intend for the institutions to raid their reserves and buttress any other losses with a 15 percent, Legislature-approved tuition hike.
Higher education in Southwest Florida was somewhat spared.
FGCU's share of the cut was $5.2 million, but it will receive an extra $2.25 million back, helping to ensure reserves stay above a mandatory minimum.
FGCU spokeswoman Susan Evans said the net $3 million hit comes at a bad time for the 14-year-old school in Estero. FGCU is growing, but state capital money has dried up.
"While we have aggressively constructed buildings and facilities over the years, we are not yet a fully developed campus like our sister institutions in the State University System," Evans said.
Fort Myers-based Edison State College will receive $67,000 more for the 2012-13 fiscal year than the current one.
"It's remarkable," said Matthew Holliday, a lobbyist for the college who had low expectations on funding from the outset. "We're thankful for our leaders for doing that."
Colleges were authorized to raise tuition 5 percent. Edison is also scheduled for about $2 million for building renovations, money Scott line-item vetoed last year.
Lawmakers will reload the governor with dollars for deals to land new or expanding companies in Florida. Scott will have $60 million to dole out next year.
They also plan to ease businesses' tax load with a variety of new breaks, doubling the tax exemption on business equipment to $50,000 and raising the corporate income tax exemption.
Tarren Bragdon, a Naples-based free-market lobbyist, said the business property tax cuts will save the average company $138, plus the time saved to comply. But another provision of the legislation lets cities and counties create even more business tax relief.
"It allows counties to choose their own destiny," Bragdon said.
A massive economic development package passed Friday with unanimous support in the Senate and one Democratic no vote in the House. It adds $120 million in tax relief.
After receiving $100 million two years ago and $42 million last year, the Legislature agreed to give Everglades restoration projects $30 million this coming year.
"We're just seeing that erode away," said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "Our governor, who's not exactly a free spender, proposed $40 million."
He said the trickle of state support will slow the pace of Everglades efforts that directly affect Collier County. One is the restoration of Picayune Strand State Forest, which still bears the scars of a failed real estate development. The other is an effort to elevate U.S. 41 East, which has acted as a dam for 80 years, preventing the flow of fresh water along the Shark Valley Slough.
__ Scripps Treasure Coast staff writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.