HENDRY COUNTY, Fl. - WINK News is uncovering big cutbacks of public safety workers: twelve deputies and six paramedics in Hendry County.
Right now, the race is on to find ways to make up for a budget shortfall before the pink slips go out.
Folks in Hendry County pleaded their case to get a piece of a dwindling money pot. The County has about a 63 million dollar budget.
But, they're trying to make up about a two point two million dollar shortfall.
"There just isn't enough money to go around," says Chairman, Tristan Chapman.
And the Sheriff's Office 10 and a half million dollar budget could see a 690-thousand dollar cut. That means twelve deputies would lose their jobs.
"I've only got 40 providing services to people right now, to the tax payers and citizens and you know I'm afraid that if we have to go there and make that kind of a cut, it's gonna be the wild west," says Sheriff Steve Whidden.
EMS services could also face some cuts. Their total budget: $2.75 million. The county is proposing to slash 225-thousand dollars.
That means one ambulance and six EMS workers are on the chopping block.
Many times during the day time over here in western Hendry County, with the caller rate, we don't have an ambulance in town, all three ambulances are transporting," says Randy Bengston, Public Safety Director.
Hendry is the poorest county in Florida but they've also seen the biggest tax increases in the past few years. County Commissioners say, in order to avoid any cuts, they would have to increase taxes by 18-percent, something that gets mixed reaction especially when it comes to public safety.
"I'd be willing to pay more if I was confident in the people that are using the money, and I don't have that confidence so at this point, I'd say no," says resident, Buddy Strickland when speaking about the County Commissioners.
Another resident says, "I'd be willing to pay more not to see cuts taken because there's some cops out here that would do their job right."
Leaders are considering pulling money from the county's solid waste fund to avoid the cuts. The final public hearing and budget decisions will be made on the 25th.