Marion sheriff calls department budget 'troubling and reckless'

Marion sheriff calls department budget 'troubling and reckless'

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OCALA, Fla. (WOGX FOX 51) -

"Troubling and reckless," were the words used by Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair to describe the county commission's recommended 3.5 percent budget cut for his department. 

After sending a three page letter to the commission and telling them some of their proposals were illegal, Commission Chairperson Kathy Bryant met with the sheriff on Thursday morning, then held an emergency commission meeting this afternoon. 

Although the county attorney did not find anything illegal about the county leaders' proposed budget for the Sheriff's Office, commissioners said they were willing to make some changes.

"After some conversation, Sheriff Blair has agreed that he would come in at the [fiscal year] 12-13 funding levels," said Commissioner Bryant. 

That's a huge compromise on both sides, considering the sheriff wanted an additional $8 million in his budget.  Sheriff Chris Blair told commissioners he only has 140 deputies on the streets, nearly half what other counties the size of Marion County have.   He said he wants more deputies and to replace what he calls his "aging and dangerous" existing fleet vehicles.  

"I still stand here and tell you that vehicles are important.  Man power is important," the sheriff told the commission.

While the sheriff's budget will stay flat, the commission will now need to find more than $2.3 million to keep it that way.  Chairperson Bryant said county leaders will have to raise the millage rate. 

"Its extremely hard, and I think that my hope is that citizens of our community will understand we've exhausted every avenue that we can exhaust to keep that from happening," she said.

Commissioner Bryant said the likely change they'll need to make to the millage rate will cost a taxpayer with a $100,000 home about 30 dollars a year.  Commissioners and the sheriff made this verbal agreement.  

Commissioners were expected to meet again on Thursday night to go over their entire budget.


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