TAVARES —The state Legislature passed a budget Friday that includes less than half of the $700,000 needed to upgrade Lake County's voting system.
But there's plenty of other goodies in the $48 billion spending plan to keep Lake leaders smiling.
In addition, Bush will consider a bill proposed by state Sen. Anna Cowin that would create a new group charged with taking a comprehensive approach to cleaning up the Harris chain of lakes.
Cowin, R-Leesburg, also is fighting to continue the popular sales-tax holiday this year.
Meanwhile, the $3.2 million voting-reform package, proposed in response to November's election debacle, requires counties such as Lake that count ballots at a central location to buy new equipment so the votes can be added at each precinct.
The change is designed to reduce the number of so-called spoiled ballots.
In the last election, more than 3,100 ballots in Lake were tossed because voters marked more than one candidate in the presidential race. Such overvotes would be caught by precinct-based ballot counters before voters leave the polls.
The equipment is estimated to cost $700,000. But the state is only offering Lake about $300,000.
It would be very helpful, said Jerry Foster, Lake's assistant supervisor of elections. Certainly, it would help the taxpayers of Lake County, and we are excited about that. Naturally, we would like to get as much as possible.
Elections Supervisor Emogene Stegall has said the $700,000 would pay for about 100 ballot counters. That would be enough for one counter at each of the county's 86 precincts and 14 extras for spares or to accommodate new precincts created by growth.
Campuses can renovate
Besides addressing election reform, leaders in the Senate and House awarded nearly everything requested by Lake-Sumter Community College.
Lawmakers agreed to give about $560,000 to renovate buildings at all three campuses and $600,000 for about 100 acres near the south Lake campus.
About $626,500 would go for three other projects: a science lab on the Sumter campus, an expanded nursing lab at the south Lake campus and a renovated multipurpose building on the Leesburg campus.
We did fine, college President Robert Westrick said. Lawmakers also agreed to give $1 million for a $20 million wastewater treatment facility for Astor, a community in northeast Lake near the St. Johns River that wants to get off septic tanks.
The state has given money for this project in the past, and lawmakers said the latest allocation should provide enough cash to finally get the job done.
In south Lake, $1.25 million is lined up to pay for the construction of Hook Street, between Hancock Road and U.S. Highway 27.
The road would provide access for a high school slated to open on an 80-acre lot south of State Road 50 and east of Hancock Road in the fall of 2002.