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CAROL WALKER/Alachua County Today
Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad agree on a ceremonial proclamation signifying the county's continued provision of law enforcement services to Newberry under a direct agreement.

NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and members of her staff met Monday to sign a ceremonial proclamation signifying a direct agreement for the Sheriff's Office to continue to provide law enforcement services to the city by contract.

The agreement, which was actually executed on April 25, provides law enforcement coverage for Newberry for the next fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2016 – Sept. 30, 2017. As part of that contract, the city will pay Alachua County $740,000.

“This is not the first time the two have contracted together,” said Sgt. Brandon Kutner, Alachua County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer. “They did so under the Oelrich administration as well.”

Since that time, the city has been paying for those services through the Law Enforcement MSTU, a municipal service taxing unit.

The city commission decided to opt out of the previous MSTU because the rate fluctuated year to year, making it difficult for the city to adequately account for it in its annual budgets.

City Manager Mike New has tried to negotiate different deals with the Sheriff where the city would know in advance what the MSTU amount would be.

“Apparently, that's not possible,” Conrad said in February while negotiations were ongoing. “So this year we decided to opt out of the MSTU and write a separate contract with the Sheriff. We think that’'s a better deal because we'll have a contract, we'll know what services we're getting and how much we're going to pay before we go into the budget cycle.”

What does all this mean for the citizens of Newberry? “Best case scenario,” said New, “is that through our budget process, there will be a reduction in our millage rate, and thus a reduction of costs for our citizens. Worst case scenario is this could be a wash for our citizens as they pay the city the same amount they would have paid the county MSTU if they were still paying into that fund. Either way, it's a no brainer.”

The City of Newberry will be paying for law enforcement either through the city's General Fund or through ad valorem taxes rather than through the separate charge that appears on tax bills called, “Law Enforcement MSTU.”

That will cause city taxes to go up considerably, somewhere between one and two mills,” said Conrad. “Right now our taxes are at about four mills. Citizens will see a significant increase in city taxes, which will be offset by a decrease in the fact that our citizens won't be paying MSTU.”

The current MSTU agreement for law enforcement services will continue through Sept. 30, 2016, after which the new agreement will be in effect.

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