Four of the five Bay County constitutional officers have submitted their Fiscal Year 2014 budgets and there's a common theme. Even though they plan to keep operating expenses flat, most are asking for more money.
Based on the preliminary budget, it will cost $81.6 million to run the county next year. That's an increase of 0.92%, roughly equal to the projected rise in property tax revenue.
Bay County's constitutional officers include the Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Clerk of Courts. Sheriff Frank McKeithen has requested a $1.4 million increase. Collectively, three officers are seeking nearly $260,000 in additional funds and the tax collector isn't required to submit a budget until August 1.
"The tax collector's office budget is different from the other offices," said Peggy Brannon, Tax Collector. "We submit it to the Florida Department of Revenue for their approval."
Brannon's budget will reflect fees collected for drivers licenses, vehicle tags and titles, boat registrations, and fishing and hunting licenses. "We have to base it on the fees that are collected through June 30 of each year because the budget is funded by the fees," Brannon said.
Only Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen is showing a decrease in spending; his calendar includes just one municipal election next spring. "I still have to absorb in certain areas the same things that all the other constitutionals have, but in the cycle of my budget right now, it's no increase," Andersen said.
The supervisor's budget could change if new election guidelines come out of next year's session of the Florida Legislature. "If they were to come back and say 'you need an early voting site in each district and you need to do Sunday early voting' legislatively, that definitely would increase my budget requirements," Andersen said.
All of the increases included in the constitutional officers' budgets are due to higher medical costs associated with the Affordable Care Act and state-mandated funding of the employee retirement plan.
County commissioners will hold two public hearings before approving the final millage rate and budget in September.