Alachua County hears initial budgets by constitutional officers 

Alachua County Administration Building
Photo by Seth Johnson

Alachua County began wading into its budget season on Tuesday with brief presentations by constitutional officers—tax collector, property appraiser, sheriff, supervisor of elections, clerk of the court, public defender, state attorney and fire chief.  

County Manager Michele Lieberman will present her proposed county budget at the first meeting in July, and no actions were taken at the Tuesday meeting. After the county manager’s proposed budget, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) can set the preliminary tax roll before starting to verify, cut and add to the budget. 

One of the largest factors will be the annual property assessments sent in early June. This will impact the funds generated by the county’s millage rate. The new millage rate and budget will be set in September. 

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Many of the constitutional officers presented near-identical budgets for the current fiscal year with cost-of-living adjustments.  

Property Appraiser Ayesha Solomon said she included a $100,000 special contingency in the budget because of ongoing lawsuits. Court administration asked the county to consider funding a general magistrate that deals with mental health cases—like the Baker and Marchman acts. The position has been supported for the past few years by COVID-19 funds that have now run out.  

The tax collector’s office said operations will only see a $20,000 increase this year with several new initiatives in the works. Jon Costabile, chief deputy at the Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office, said keeping employees is a big issue, and the office has mirrored the county’s 6% cost-of-living adjustment.  

The office is also using extra funds generated by fees to pay off its NW 34th Street location. Constabile said the extra payments will pay off the building in 2026, four years early. 

Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton said she has included funding in her budget for an extra Sunday of early voting at eight locations. She said each location needs to approve the extra day to move forward.  

Barton also added an elections IT manager position to the budget. She reminded the board that the budget doesn’t include funds for a recount if called for in November. 

Sheriff Emery Gainey said his office wants to raise the starting pay for deputies and detention officers to $55,000 to stay competitive for employees. The sheriff’s office has struggled with vacancies, a top objective for Gainey when he started the position in the fall.  

At the meeting, he said the office has hired 149 employees since his arrival and lost 57, resulting in a net of 92 employees. The office still has 71 vacancies just in the detention officers category.  

Gainey said the starting pay raise will also bring detention officers and deputies to an equal starting salary.  

Gainey said the office needs another general attorney to add to its current one as legal agreements and contracts increase. Three other new employee positions were included in the budget, and he said the office also wants to increase its number of co-responders—a mental health unit in collaboration with Meridian Behavioral Healthcare

Other requests included the replacement of the sheriff’s 2009 bomb truck and 1997 mobile command vehicle.  

Another presentation looked at updating the fire assessment set. The assessment has had minor adjustments since the new methodology was set in 2018. The update would likely mean an increase in the fire assessment.   

The BOCC asked for more data on the issue and whether the change needed to occur in the current fiscal year. 

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