^pBy Warren Richardson
SOUTH VENICE — Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight always likes to use his time with the county commissioners to keep them abreast of upcoming issues, “so they won’t be surprised.”
And he used his budget presentation to commissioners recently to highlight another issue he saw on the horizon.
With construction of a new South County Courthouse due to start in 2020, Knight told commissioners last week that the facility would have a “significant impact” on his office.
Already, Knight said, he has 66 deputies assigned to the court system, “a pretty high number,” for the 16 judges who hold sessions in North and South County.
Once renovations are completed at the R.L. Anderson complex, including the new courthouse, Knight said the immediate impact would be the need for four additional deputies at an estimated cost of $297,000.
Eventually, he said, his office would need nine new deputies at a cost of $668,000 to provide security at the facility.
And if more judges are added to the 12th Judicial Circuit, the number of deputies assigned for security could climb even higher.
Florida statutes dictate that the sheriff provide security for the judicial system.
In response to Knight’s early alert, Commission Chairman Charles Hines suggested that the sheriff work with court administration and the chief judge to ensure that proper scheduling of the deputies can occur.
But, then, Hines had another admonition for Knight.
“Don’t ever feel that you have to come in here to defend a budget request just because we make a decision to serve a growing population in South County,” Hines told the sheriff.
Col. Kurt Hoffman, Knight’s chief deputy and general counsel, thanked Hines saying, “It is a deliberative, internal thought-provoking process before we come here asking for more money.”
Knight’s budget proposal requests $119.9 million to fund his operations for 2020, up by 2.9 percent from the adopted 2019 budget of $116.5 million.
The 2020 budgets will take effect on Oct. 1, following two public hearings before the county commission in September.