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Tuesday September 16th 2014

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Budget Amendments, Pay Raises & RESTORE

The Escambia County Commission will be looking to take care of more than a half million dollars worth of supplemental budget amendments tonight. Commissioners plan to send additional funds to the Escambia County Sheriff’s budget and also designate some for economic development purposes.

On the meeting agenda, the sheriff is slated to get $220,000, while another $550,000 would be going into the Economic Development Fund, which pays for costs associated with the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.

“We can discuss that tonight,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson, taking issue with the numbers.

Robinson said he thought the county only had $650,000 available to transfer from the General Fund.

“I don’t think we can spend more than we’ve got,” he said.

Commissioner Kevin White and Chairman Wilson Robertson said they believed the sheriff needed the entirety of his original request for around $350,000. The chairman said he would like to see the sheriff receive the full amount, with the remaining sum—whatever’s left over from either $650,000 or $770,000—put into the Economic Development Fund.

“I’m fine with that,” White agreed.

The commissioners agreed to discuss the specifics during this evening’s regular meeting.

Also during this morning’s work session, outgoing Commissioner White made a motion to give county staff two percent cost-of-living increases. That amount was eventually upped to three percent.

“You’ve got a great group of employees that have not been taken care of for five years, going on six,” the commissioner said.

Robinson stressed that such a move would need to be budget neutral. Chairman Robertson said he thought that could be accomplished due to the county’s recent decisions to levy dedicated taxes to fund both the library and mass transit systems.

“My only question is, why didn’t we go to three?” Robertson said.

“I’ll amend it to three, I have no problem with that,” White said.

The commission also discussed the funds associated with the RESTORE Act this morning. An announcement is expected later today regarding the fines associated with the 2010 oil spill.

“We’ll see what happens today,” Robinson, who has been the board’s point-person on oil spill issues, told the commission.

Incoming chairman Gene Valentino noted that early reports were indicating a sum significantly less than the $20 billion high-end estimate. Robinson said he always expected something in the $10 to $15 million range.

“We’re recalibrating a lot of our opportunities,” Valentino said of the county’s plans for the funds.

The commission’s regular meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the county’s downtown complex. There is a public comment period at 4:30 p.m.