Lake County Commission calls out sheriff on budget details

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Lake County might be headed for its own version of a fiscal cliff next year, so officials are already preparing for more budget cuts.

For the first, the county commission asked Sheriff Gary Borders on Tuesday for specifics on his budget.

At the very least, the commission wants everybody on the same page, because county officials are expecting another very bad year for tax collections, said Channel 9's Berndt Petersen.

The budget to run the Lake County Sheriff's Office is just shy of $50 million a year.

"Where is the money spent? How is it spent? And is it in line with our priorities?" asked Commission chairwoman Leslie Campione.

Borders went over his spending plan at a public meeting on Tuesday, giving more specifics than the commission has been used to, Petersen said.

"The county board does not have the authority to set his budget. They go and ask for his cooperation. And in the past, he hasn't always done that," said Vance Jochim of the Lake County Fiscal Rangers.

Jochim has criticized the sheriff's budgets in recent years, saying they weren't cut enough. But Borders did reduce spending by 5 percent last year.

"As you can see, over the last couple of years, our staffing has reduced by a large number," Borders said.

In all, there are 53 fewer employees, and there have been no employee raises in four years and an operating budget of $1 million less, all with calls for help on the rise.

The meeting was not confrontational, and the sheriff and commission have pledged to work together as the county prepares for another year where steep cuts are expected.

"This is a great opportunity for residents to see, here's how it works. Here's what the sheriff spends his money on," said Campione.

During the meeting, the commission pledged not to hire a private company to run the county jail. The sheriff says that goes a long way with morale among the corrections deputies.