SARASOTA — Calling his budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year a “significant increase,” Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman pointed to population growth.
He looked particularly in East County as one reasons behind his need for 19 new employees.
Hoffman proposed a budget of $152.5 million for 2023, up 14% over 2022’s $133.5 million adopted budget.
“This is for things we’ve been talking about for a number of years,” Hoffman told commissioners during the first of two days of annual budget workshops for commissioners.
Hoffman told commissioners his command staff had originally submitted 29 new positions to him for his approval, but he cut the number to 19.
“We’ve deferred some positions and equipment purchases to next year,” Hoffman added.
With a now-total county population of 462,769 people, a 24% increase from 373,928 people according to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Hoffman said his department of 1,036 employees numbered below the 1,050 employees in 2007.
But new employees are not the only factors behind his increased budget. He said the cost of fuel, ammunition and health care are among other factors impacting his budget.
Fuel costs alone, he said, had increased by $1 million and may increase more.
“Some sheriffs are parking their cars and helicopters,” Hoffman said. “I don’t think our community would accept that.”
With criminal activity always a cause of concern to residents of the county, Hoffman showed a slide to commissioners indicating that major crimes declined by 58% from 9,131 in 2009 to 986 in the first quarter of 2022.
For 2021, 3,848 major crimes were committed in the county.
In that vein, Hoffman and the commissioners spent several minutes discussing active shooter situations and threat assessments.
“There’s a significant amount of money in the budget for training and equipment related to active shooting situations,” Hoffman said.
Moving on to threat assessments, Hoffman said they were almost daily and labor-intensive.
“We take them very seriously,” Hoffman said. “They are a real and present threat.”
Besides Hoffman, commissioners heard budget presentations from the other four constitutional officers as well as from the directors of several county departments.
The workshop will continue Friday as commissioners delve into the finer details of County Administrator Jonathan Lewis’ proposed $1.4 billion budget.
While commissioners are only providing input at this point, final approval of the budget will not occur until September during two public hearings.