The Board of County Commissioners approved the tentative millage rate and proposed budget for fiscal year 2015/16 at its last regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
The board approved a tentative rate of 8.4909 mills, an increase of 1.09 percent from the rolled back rate of 8.3329 mills. The rolled back rate reflects the rate that would generate the same amount of property tax revenues as the last fiscal year.
The board said the increase was a reflection of increases in retirement, interest rates and improved customer service in various departments.
The proposed budget was approved at $69,872,896.
Sheriff Steve Whidden appealed to the board asking for an increase in his department’s budget to help retain deputies.
“Our guys are hurting. We’re losing bodies every year,” said Sheriff Whidden. Deputies are said to leave the Hendry County department looking for better salaries on the coast, or even the Clewiston Police Department, after training with the sheriff’s office.
“We’ve been flat for a couple of years now. We’re not putting in fluff. I need you guys to work with us as much as you can,” said Sheriff Whidden to commissioners.
The board approved a motion to put back in the budget an extra $25,000 the sheriff requested to help retain officers, without increasing the county budget.
Along with the tentative millage and proposed budget, commissioners also approved assessments for the following MSBUs:
West Hendry County Fire
East Hendry County Fire
West Hendry County Recreational
East Hendry County Recreational
Port LaBelle Street Lighting
Port LaBelle Utility District
Hooker’s Point Street Lighting
East Hendry County Drainage District
At the request of Clewiston City Manager Al Perry, the commissioners voted to split Boater Improvement Funds between the cities of Clewiston and LaBelle to help out both municipalities in the coming budget year. Clewiston plans to use the funds for improvements at the boat basin, including adding more security cameras.
The board also entertained the idea of allocating all boater improvement funds to one city on alternating years beginning next year.