PENSACOLA, FL - Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Department will be hard-hit by a bare-bones 2011 budget and unable to purchase new patrol cars, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
The Sheriff's Office has a fleet of 240 vehicles, 115 of which are patrol cars. The last 10 new cars were purchased in 2008.
"We average almost 2,000 miles a month on (patrol) cars. Maintenance costs stay pretty low until we get about 135,000 miles, then we start seeing an increase," Sheriff Wendall Hall told the Pensacola News Journal. "As of Feb. 10, we had 10 vehicles already that exceed 135,000 miles. By February a year from now, we'll have 34 of those 115 vehicles that will have in excess of 135,000 miles.
Patrol cars are not the only thing that Hall's department needs. Hall says 50 or more deputies' jobs could be on the line as the county begins work on the 2011 budget.
"We can't cut the jail. We can't cut court security. It would all have to come from operations, which means patrol," Hall told the newspaper. "We could be looking at as many as 50-plus deputies. We simply cannot function losing 50 deputies. Unless this county is completely broke with no reserves - no nothing - that simply cannot happen."
The Santa Rosa County Commission planned to meet with Hall and other county officers on Feb. 22 to begin discussions of the 2011 fiscal budget, which begins Oct. 1.
General fund revenues fell from $72.9 million in 2007 to $66.4 million this year. County leaders aren't expecting that trend to change. The sheriff's budget is about $27.5 million.
One option to increase funding for the Sheriff's Office is to create a special taxing district called a Municipal Services Taxing Unit that would levy an extra property tax dedicated to the Sheriff's Office, according to the Pensacola News Journal.
Such a district could be created by a vote of the County Commission, but in the past commissioners have said they would put it to the voters for a referendum. If voters approved that plan in Santa Rosa, the first revenues would not be available until the fiscal 2012 budget.
Using current property values, 1 mill of property tax - which is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value - would bring in about $7 million.