Impending departmental cuts concerning community

Residents are worried about what budget cuts will mean for the county’s libraries, but the County Commission will have to cut millions to ensure there’s no budget deficits in the next year.

Sarasota residents urged county commissioners in November not to do what they now have to: make department-level budget cuts that will affect the services provided throughout the county.

“I know that you commissioners understand how vital libraries are,” said Charlie Huisking, vice president of the county’s Library Foundation, at a Nov. 28 meeting, referencing the commission’s recent investments in the Venice Library, which is under construction, and the now-open Shannon Staub Library in North Port.

“But what sense does it make to open new libraries and then fail to adequately fund their operations?”

Huisking’s query comes at the end of one era of budget struggles for the county, and the start of another one.

In deciding the budget for the current fiscal year, the County Commission chose to balance the budget with $5.4 million from the economic uncertainty fund instead of raising taxes. By the end of November, the commission had a plan in place to rebuild that reserve, solving the most immediate problem.

But 2018 is beginning with a new challenge for the commission: finding enough money to cut from departmental budgets to make up for an anticipated deficit in the next fiscal year. In choosing not to levy a tax on public utilities this year or raise property tax rates, commissioners left themselves with a more than $11 million recurring balance to make up each year in the future.

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