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Signed bill buys county another year

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By Alice Du Pont

It's been a lean year for counties and cities in Florida given the $6 billion slash in the state budget, according to Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, who is pleased overall with the funding that came to Gadsden County.

"It was a good year. It was an opportunity for me to learn the process, the budget and the rules of the process. It was important to build relationships with Democrats and Republicans for the future," Williams said.

He feels the most important accomplishment for the county had no financial impact on the state. He is proud of sponsoring House Bill 873, which allows the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide the county a license renewal for an additional 12 months for reopening the hospital. Gov. Charlie Crist signed the bill during a ceremony last Wednesday morning.

"The extension gives the county a little breathing room. Now they have some time to get the funding in place for the furniture, fixtures and equipment," Williams said.

He said he is disappointed that with so many state employees in his district, there were no pay raises for the fourth year. In the last 6 years state employees have not received pay raises. The budget also includes a 2 percent pay cut for state employees making more than $45,000 per year. Williams did not support the bill. A bright spot is that state employees will see no increase in insurance cost.

"The state's declining economy and drop in revenues dominated the session. For the first time in history we have seen 3 years of declining revenue. Tough decisions were made on how to balance the budget. This led the leadership of the House and Senate to seek additional revenues through federal stimulus dollars through the Seminole Indian Gaming Compact and the cigarette tax increases. I was disappointed that the Legislature chose to cut funding for many important programs. Some programs never made it out of committee," he said.

This year the Legislature fully funded the Amendment 1 offset for fiscally-constrained counties. Gadsden County will receive approximately $1.15 million from these funds, an increase of over the $496,000 received last year. From revenue sharing funds, the county will receive:

• Approximately $1.5 million through the Emergency Distribution Fund, a special revenue sharing funding designated to assist small counties by offsetting the lack of sales tax collections.

• Approximately $750,000 through the fiscally constrained counties revenue sharing program.

• Approximately $1.3 million in small county road funding.

• $365,000 in library funding that the county would have lost if library funding had not been restored.

• Approximately $80,000 for the solid waste recycling program.

"This is a reduction from $277,000 provided for this year, but we are glad that the funding was not eliminated as originally proposed," Williams said.

• Approximately $424,459 for adults with disabilities.

• Approximately $6.3 million to resurface U.S. 90 east from Madison Street in Quincy to east of Little River.

• $1.5 million for resurfacing County Road 268 (Hardaway Highway) to County Road 269 (Bonnie Hill Road).

• $5,992 for public schools workforce education performance-based incentives.

• $690,631 for public schools workforce education program funds.

Williams added that all revenue has not been distributed or earmarked and that Gadsden County stands to receive more in the future.