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Commission slashes budget

By By John Dilmore Jr. Special to the Advance
Escambia County's Board of Commissioners passed a tight budget Monday morning, with members voicing their intention to find even more ways to save in these lean economic times.
Following a rundown of the fiscal year 2004 budget, County Commission Chairman Larry White said that the board needed to have someone – either a committee or some other group of individuals – perform a close analysis of costs related to use of cell phones, county vehicles and other expenses.
The analysis will be performed so the commission can see what it may be "able to get by without," White said.
Such a study, "really is just good management practice anyway," White said. "But it's a good time for us to take a closer look at what we do have…and what might be available that would better serve our community."
Already, in an effort to balance this year's budget, the board has cut costs related to travel and other items totalling in the neighborhood of $20,000.
Of the budget itself, County Administrator Tony Sanks said that it was the slimmest he could remember the commission passing.
"This budget will be, honestly, the tightest budget that we've had in the time I've been here," Sanks said. "We will have to be very, very mindful of our finances during this year."
Later, White remarked that, "A budget is always just a best guess anyway. We use what we know about the coming year to anticipate revenues and expenditures.
"It's going to change. There's no doubt about that. Hopefully it will be a positive change."
Later in the meeting, White expressed hope that there would be a positive turnaround in the areas of revenue generated from solid waste collection or local sales tax.
In the end, the commission voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2004 operating budget, which calls for total expenditures of $5,198,709.898.
Of that amount, $2,362,709.42 is budgeted under the category general government, $2,402,484.05 under the category public safety, $52,096.14 under the category sanitation and $190,610.28 under the category health and welfare.
Also, $21,000 is budgeted for culture and recreation, $15,800 for education, $76,782 for intergovernmental expenses and $77,228 for debt service.
To cover those costs, the budget call for appropriation of $5,300,289.89 from taxes, licenses and permits, intergovernmental appropriations, charges for various services and various other areas.
The money to cover this year's expenses is there, White said. "This is a true picture. We can expect that revenue."