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How state budget, new laws impact Marion County

Ocala, FL - March 16, 2012

Published: Ocala.com/Star-Banner Friday, March 16, 2012 at 6:59 p.m.

One week after the Legislature wrapped up its 2012 regular session, the effects on Marion County are coming into better focus.

Here's a sampling:

Public schools: About $1 billion was added to the state's education budget, which will mean about $8 million more for Marion County schools.

However, since an $8 million federal jobs bill expires on June 30 and more students are expected to enroll in August — and since fuel costs are expected to rise — Superintendent of School Jim Yancey believes the district will have $1.7 million less to spend in 2012-13.

Court clerk: The Legislature slashed court clerks' budgets statewide by $31 million. In Marion, the clerk's current total budget is $6,041,694. The new proposed budget would be $5,814,294 — a difference of $391,343.

Marion County Clerk of the Circuit Court David Ellspermann is one of 67 clerks statewide who now face tough decisions. He must either reduce workers' pay by instituting furloughs or eliminating an estimated 12 jobs out of 129 deputy clerks.

More than 900 jobs are at risk in clerk offices statewide. Ellspermann plans to make his decision in the coming week.

Mental health: The Centers is bracing for a 19.6 percent (about $200,000) cut to its Children's Crisis Stabilization Center. This comes because the Legislature cut $2.75 million in Baker Act funding.

The Centers provides an array of mental health services. CEO Charles Powell said because the stabilization center is so important, money from other areas will be taken to make up the loss.

Florida mental health providers, including The Centers, avoided a $102 million legislative proposal to cut funding for adult and children's mental health. Lawmakers instead enacted a 0.3 percent funding cut.

Medicaid: Munroe Regional Medical Center and Ocala Health System will see an average 7 percent cut to their Medicaid reimbursements.

For publicly owned Munroe Regional, which has a higher-than-usual Medicaid client base, the cuts will mean an estimated $3.2 million loss. Ocala Health System is expected to lose about $1 million. The cuts are in addition to similar Medicaid reductions last year.

Marion County government also is faced with finding $1.2 million to reimburse the state for Medicaid costs.

Munroe Regional: Marion County Hospital District trustees will have a more difficult time selling or leasing Munroe after Dec. 31.

New Florida statutes will make the process more complex and place more rigorous standards on any future sale or lease.

Florida waterways: The Legislature approved pollutant nutrient standards for Florida waters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must approve the standards — and the way Florida wants to measure the pollutants nitrogen and phosphorus — before the state system would be allowed.

Realtors: The Legislature approved a business exemption that exempts Realtors from paying the local business tax. The city of Ocala generates about $500,000 a year in local business taxes. The city does not know yet what the impact the Realtor exemption will have on revenues.

Communications: The Legislature approved changes to the Communication Services Tax, which telecom companies pay for use of public right-of-way. The city of Ocala generates about $4 million a year from the tax. The changes will cost the city $139,000 annually.


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