Yes, Hernando County commissioners. You have a budget problem

Clerk and auditor repeat their concerns that the county has been spending more money than it brings in.

Hernando County Courthouse in Brooksville


By Barbara Behrendt

Published April 10

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners — who’ve said repeatedly over the past year that the county’s financial crunch came as a surprise to them — heard Tuesday from County Clerk Doug Chorvat that the seeds of the problem were visible in previous years’ financial reports.

And auditor Mark White reminded them that he said a year ago they were heading in a bad direction.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, Chorvat, county finance director Amy Gillis and White, of the county’s auditing company Purvis, Gray and Company, presented the county’s annual financial report. They repeated a message commissioners have heard time and again in recent months, that they have been spending more money than they bring in for some time.

Gillis showed charts indicating the chasm between revenue and expenses, graphically demonstrating the general fund shortfall that county officials describe as between $9 million and $11 million. In the first two quarters of this fiscal year, the county is down $3.6 million from what was budgeted, Gillis said,

and the charts haven’t changed for the past couple of years.

“That gap between revenue and expenses has been there,’’ she said.

Commissioner John Mitten suggested that staffers add quarterly financial updates to commission meeting agendas so they can review them regularly.

“We need to keep it front and center,’’ Mitten said, “until we get out of the woods.’’

Gillis also showed how the county has tried to shore up its general fund. Commissioners transferred $3 million set aside for capital improvements into their spending plan in 2017. And they pulled $2.8 million from the Quality of Life Fund — monies collected from taxpayers to protect environmentally sensitive lands — to shore up their general fund in 2018.

The practice has gone on for years, Chorvat said.

“There have a been a lot of one-time revenues used in the past to patch this,’’ Chorvat told the commission, adding that commissioners must fix this trend.

The auditor’s report also revealed the need to get expenses and revenue in line. And it noted the county’s problems with managing overtime for employees in the public works department, which have been the subject of several union and legal actions. Among them was a payment of nearly $42,000 to Tom Charlow, the husband of county human resources director Cristi Charlow. The auditor said it was a conflict of interest for Cristi Charlow to be involved in her husband’s overtime case.