Commissioners discuss $7.7M budget shortfall

Posted on June 16, 2020 by Staff reports

Santa Rosa County Commissioners today discussed outsourcing staff as a possible way to address anticipated fiscal year 2020-2021 budget shortfalls despite a projected 7.3-percent increase in ad valorem revenues.

Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser Greg Brown recently advised commissioners of the anticipated $4.4 million increase in property tax revenues for FYE 2021. Accordingly, if Santa Rosa County does not “roll back” the millage rate to offset those additional revenues, technically it’s an ad valorem tax increase, which must be advertised.

The county’s revenues have grown from $109.8 million in 2014 to 155.7 million in 2019.

During today’s workshop it was announced the county plans to maintain the current 6.0953 millage rate, which would help generate a projected $155.5 million in total revenues for FYE 2021.

However, county expenses have grown to a projected 163.2 million for FYE 2021, including a 10% projected increase in employee health care costs.

Dan Schebler, county administrator, said budget shortfalls were due in part to COVID-19 costs and a “flat to decreasing gas tax revenue.” He also noted the county would get to a balanced budget during the on-going budgeting process.

One approach Schebler suggested to address the shortage was to maintain the same budgets for constitutional officers, like the sheriff and tax collector, for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts October 1. He noted an exception might be need for the Supervisor of Elections budget, considering the upcoming elections and related costs.

But commissioners want to explore other options, including outsourcing staff.

District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker suggested a “leaner, meaner workforce,” and District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole recommended starting with possible outsourcing in the county’s engineering department.

“I don’t know how we could get any leaner,” said District 3 Commissioner Don Salter.

Schebler said outsourcing has been used for the county’s courthouse project, which is underway on Avalon Boulevard.

Cole also suggested the county consider scaling back the planned Pea Ridge Connector from a four-lane to a two-lane road. Reducing or delaying other capital expenses and projects was also discussed.

Additionally, Jerry Couey, a candidate for District 3 Commissioner, questioned whether or not the board planned to place a local option sales tax referendum on the November 3 General Election ballot.

“I’m sure we’ll have a renewal of the LOST,” said District 5 Commissioner Lane Lynchard, who stated he will support the measure if it remains a half-cent tax.

Cole asked Couey whether or not he would support the LOST renewal. Couey told the board he would likely support the measure if they maintained it at the half-cent tax.

Last year Santa Rosa County voters by a 67-33 margin defeated the county’s effort to double the LOST to a full one cent for a period of 10 years.

The next budget workshop will take place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 14 at the County Administrative Complex, located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton. To contact commissioners regarding budget issues, email