DADE CITY — Pasco County's growth trajectory is shooting upward, and so are the county’s revenues and the budget requests of some of its department heads.

While final numbers are a few weeks away, the county’s agency heads have big plans for the extra money, including more employees in several departments including the Sheriff's Office, code enforcement and the building department, which will help the county continue to grow and serve its citizens.

According to information from the June 8 County Commission meeting, the following departments requested increases to their budgets:

• The Sheriff’s Office is seeking an additional 6%, to $158.6 million from $149.6 million, an increase of $9 million.

• The County Clerk and Comptroller is seeking $13.3 million, an increase of nearly $9 million.

• The Supervisor of Elections is seeking a budget hike of 29%, to $5.7 million from $4.4 million, an increase of nearly $1.3 million.

Sheriff Chris Nocco’s budget request includes funding for 30 more deputies.

County Clerk and Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles said that since 2010, the county’s population has increased 19%, the county has increased staffing by 39%, but the clerk’s office has had to cut its staffing by 11% because of funding shortages.

“However, local requirements, factors, and circumstances beyond the control of the Clerk's Office continue to impact its workload and resource needs. Inadequate funding affects our ability to attract and retain qualified applicants, maintain proper reserves needed to plan for technological improvements, and meet anticipated increasing service demands,” she wrote. “Therefore, the Clerk's Office is now requesting the county to fund the functions for which it is responsible. Providing premier, or even appropriate levels of service will not be possible with current funding.”

Supervisor of Election Brian Corley’s budget memorandum noted the upcoming challenges of redistricting, vote-by-mail requests, including a legal mandate to implement a vote-by-mail system for the disabled, and the impact of the Florida Legislature’s controversial Senate Bill 90, which the governor signed in May. 

SB 90 has been labeled a voter suppression effort by activists, and groups have been vowing to challenge it in court. A lawsuit has been filed, Corley noted in his memo, more lawsuits are possible and the cost of the legal actions is impossible to determine and might require a budget amendment.

County Commissioner Jack Mariano of District 5 said it's too early to tell how the final budget will work out, but he said he understood that departments always go for the highest number they think they can get at the beginning. 

As for the sheriff's budget request, he said, “We've worked well with them.”

He's especially glad that the county is competitive with other counties in pay for its deputies, which is good for retention.

Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick expressed a concern during the budget presentation about deputies leaving for higher-paying departments.

“The people of the county appreciate the deputies,” Mariano said, and he added that some deputies that may have left for positions with other sheriff's offices have returned to Pasco County's Sheriff's Office.

For more information on the budget and the budget process, visit https://www.pascocountyfl.net/318/Office-of-Management-Budget.

In other action, the commission:

• Approved on a 5-0 vote a bond issue for jail improvements.

• Heard a report from Alvarez-Sowles about two more residents who were scammed out of money after they received telephone calls telling them they had failed to report for jury duty and that there were warrants for their arrest. The victims were instructed to buy gift cards, she said, and send them to the criminals.