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Next year’s county budget starts now

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By Chris Van Ormer

Commissioners will discuss next year’s budget on Tuesday, even though it won’t be finalized until September.

“We have a balanced budget. We’re OK for this year,” County Administrator Brad Thorpe said at December’s meeting of the Citrus County Council, (CCC), a not-for-profit, nonpartisan consortium of homeowner associations, civic groups and environmental groups. “But obviously we’ve got to have a plan for next year. And we’re not going to wait for the budget cycle. We’re going to start Jan. 8, when I’m going to come to the board and start talking about the budget.”

Thorpe said the county budget would feature at every meeting this year of the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). This action is in response to a $17 million shortfall that arose in late November when the county learned that its biggest taxpayer, Progress Energy Florida, would refuse to pay its full 2012 tax bill.

Thorpe said he planned to take time at each BOCC meeting to break down the county’s $231 million budget for commissioners and residents to understand how the county is funded and what its services cost.

“We’re going to break it down; we’re going to boil it out,” Thorpe said. “We’re going to talk about what the general fund is all about.”

Thorpe will introduce this discussion at 2:30 p.m. as his first budget forecast review detailing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2013-14. From these talks, taxpayers can advise the BOCC whether taxes should increase, services should decrease or a combination of both.

Thorpe also will lead a discussion about the interlocal agreement with the Citrus County School Board on concurrency and impact fees. The school board has advised that it does not want concurrency provisions to be removed from the interlocal agreement and it wants to continue collection of school impact fees.

If the BOCC decides to suspend impact fees for schools, an analysis will need to be conducted to consider the effect it will place on the school board’s capital facilities program. Commissioners are expected to decide and instruct staff.

The BOCC also will be asked to proceed with the agreement between Citrus County Port Authority and TranSystems for the consultant firm to prepare a feasibility study for Port Citrus.

At 1:15 p.m., the BOCC will present certificates, proclamations and employee service awards. Recognition will be given to Lowe’s Inverness store, Beverly Hills Surveillance Unit and the Craftsman’s Guild Inc. for co-sponsoring and supporting the Adopt-A-Tree event Dec. 14 at the Central Ridge Community Center at Beverly Hills.

Public Hearings will begin at 2 p.m. The first will consider a street vacation application regarding roadways in the Crystal River Airport area.

At 2:10 p.m., a public hearing will consider the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) rental development strategy 2013.

Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer can be reached at cvanormer@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2916.