Lake County commissioner says millions needed to replace fleet of aging vehicles

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

Lake County residents could soon be paying more in taxes to replace hundreds of aging county vehicles. Officials say it's costing too much money to keep the cars on the road.
 
At the county's fleet management garage the mechanics are keeping a lot of high mileage vehicles on the road, but it's costing taxpayers a fortune.
 
"There's just no wisdom in throwing $3,000 into a rattletrap that's going to need $3,000 in it again next year," said County Commission Chairman Jimmy Conner.
 
Conner said 300 county cars and trucks need to be replaced. But the $8 million price tag -- even if spread out over several years -- comes at a time when the county budget is $15 million short.
 
"I believe this is a concerted effort, by probably Jimmy Conner, my opinion, to bump up all the numbers so that they can ask for a tax increase to cover the sheriff's budget and everything else without a lot of discussion," said Vance Jochim, with the watchdog group Lake County Fiscal Rangers.
 
Sheriff Gary Borders is asking for an additional $3 million in his budget for deputy pay raises, which Conner supports.
 
"The fleet is not nearly as important as public safety.  The sheriff has cut his budget not one, not two but three years in a row. We have to fund him this year," said Conner.
 
A possible property tax hike could cost the average homeowner an extra $100 a year. The tax rate rate will be set by the end of the month and residents will have their say at budget hearings in September.