Published: Aug 25, 2010 11:38 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 25, 2010 7:50 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Lee County is nearing final decisions on next year's budget, and on Thursday, commissioners are expecting to get a packet of material.   It will include various options to close a huge budget shortfall - some believe as much as 60-million dollars  -- to balance the coming budget.

"We are going to recommend an increase in the tax rate, coupled with furloughs (unpaid days off) for employees and managers, and some cuts in services," said Karen Hawes, Lee Co. Manager.   "We are looking at things like maintenance of county parks, facilities and road-sides.   If we used to cut grass every 6 weeks along some roads in the past, we may  move that to 8 weeks.   If commissioners do not want to increase the tax rate, they will have to cut deeper into services.  We even are presenting other options, including a possible 10-percent pay cut for all employees."   Commissioner Frank Mann has proposed that as a way to help balance the budget.   Under the current board, 3 commissioners have said they will not increase the tax rate;  two have said, they would vote that way.

Hawes spoke to the SW Fl. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.   She says that managers are trying to find the right size for county government.   She told WINK News in an interview:  "We have had an enhanced level of government services in this community.   We have to get that down, cut it back some.  And if people want to cut taxes, they will have to cut a lot of services."

Taxpayer and homeowner Joe Botelho of San Carlos Park says:   Cut away.   "I am tired of the politicians telling us they are doing things, but they don't keep their promises.   I say:  do not raise taxes, cut back like the rest of us have had to do in our budgets.   I have no sympathy for them (elected officials and budget planners)," he told WINK.

Commissioners are supposed to work up their final budget next Tuesday.   The must approve a balanced budget for the coming year, by Oct. 1.