Grant for new deputies comes at a multimillion-dollar cost to Citrus County

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'It’s on this board to find the money.'

When Citrus County Sheriff’s Col. Elena Vitt asked County Commissioners in May to support a federal grant application to hire 44 deputies, the attitude in the room was almost self-defeating.

Vitt and Commissioners agreed that the likelihood of getting the full request was slim. And it made Commissioners nervous since it potentially committed the county millions of dollars in salaries that it had not budgeted for.

Everyone agreed the deputies were needed, but there was no talk about how the county would hold up its end to match.

Now the talk is necessary after the Department of Justice this week awarded Citrus County a $5.37 million grant designed to cover a third of the cost of hiring 44 deputies.

The grant cycle is five years, but the financial award is only for three years. That means the county will fully cover years four and five.

The county’s end is $14.5 million over the first three years, and an unknown amount to cover the grant’s final two years.

Commissioners in May said there was no “downside” to requesting the full amount because even getting the grant doesn’t hold the county accountable to spend it.

Still, they appeared confused with the details. Plus, the Sheriff’s request was added to the agenda at the last minute and the deadline to apply was that same day.

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said Sheriff Mike Prendergast has made clear his need for additional road patrol officers and the grant would help fill that need.

“This is not something we should be chewing on,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “It’s on this board to find the money.”

Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach said she was “nervous” about applying for a grant that if successful could cost the county millions of dollars it hadn’t planned to spend.

Vitt, however, sought to calm her nerves by saying receiving the full grant is “the worst-case scenario.”

The meeting minutes reflect the uncertainty of funding: “If the grant is approved, then the board will find the money.”

The grant took effect Oct. 1.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


  • Freedom

    November 9, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    So Citrus county can find grants for more deputies, but funny they don’t uphold the laws on the books now!!
    What we need is to worry about the citizens and quit worrying about tourism and bringing in more people. How bout you take care of those here 365 who pay taxes and don’t get service!! Neighborhoods 50 + years old still dirt, but those big people coming in get new everything…stop wasting our money.

  • Paul Reinhardt

    November 9, 2023 at 10:23 pm

    It’s time to get a new Sheriff in Town. One that doesn’t play partisan politics.

    • True Republican

      November 11, 2023 at 7:39 am

      Agreed. A sheriff that will hold his deputies accountable when the break the laws.

  • Concerned citizen

    November 11, 2023 at 12:56 am

    The sheriff dept now gets 60 plus % of the county budget and according to the finace comissioner tje Shetiff was awarded in last budget for 25 new officers. Someone needs to Audit the Sheriff books. Also the sheriff hss a huge problem in this county with OHVs riding roads and private property an its crazy the sheriff ATV patrol only has 3 on during winter and Zero on in the summer. Why isnt the sheriff upholding the ATV-OHVs laws on the books? Citrus county even opted out of those OHVs to hrle driven on dirt roads.Also the post put on thr Sheriffs FB page about Gollf Carts makes it sound like anyone everywhere in citrus can ride golf carts on roads when only a couple places allow being Crystal river. People are getting killed roads in citrus on golf carts. Also 60% killed on OHVs nationwide are caused on paved roads exactly where they never shoukd be road on as tires..suspenstion made for off Road..Why have laws if not enforced? Start doing your job or resign..Hope you get voted out

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