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Around Florida: Alachua, Liberty, Leon are Per Capita Budget Leaders

Residents of Alachua, Liberty and Leon Counties were showered with state dollars more generously than residents elsewhere in the state with those three counties atop a list of per capita spending for the upcoming year.

With millions for universities, roads and other infrastructure spending, the three moderate or sparsely populated counties were bestowed state budget dollars at more than twice the level of any other county on a per capita basis, an analysis of the 2009/2010 budget shows.

The figures do not include funds spent in multiple counties or administered by the state through general revenue including the state’s public school funding formula, known as the FEFP.

Alachua led the list of per capita spending, thanks to the University of Florida. If the state were to simply cut checks, each of the county’s roughly 252,000 residents would receive $2,561. Much of that influx, however, revolves around the university and its ancillary centers including the UF Health Center and the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.

UF funding dwarfed all other allocations in the county-by-county figures. A $313 million line item for ongoing UF programs was the largest single allocation in the House county-by-county analysis of where the state’s money is going under the budget, which is now awaiting Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature. The university and its affiliates captured four of the top 10 spots.

Likewise, Leon County benefited from its ties to the state university system. The county of 275,000 is home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University, which accounted for nearly $450 million. That boosted per capita state spending in the county that’s home to Tallahassee to $1,813.

Unlike Alachua and Leon, which owe much of their good fortune to academics, Liberty County needs to say thanks to asphalt. One of the state’s poorest and least populated counties, the Panhandle County is nestled in the Apalachicola National Forest.

With only 8,158 residents, budget allocations translate into $2,136 per person. The high per capital figure is due to a $17.3 million resurfacing project on State Road 65 that links State Road 20 to the Gulf coast near East Point.

Calhoun County, the next on the list, dips to $870 per resident.

Despite receiving the lion’s share of state dollars, Miami-Dade’s 2.4 million population pushed the county further down the list. With an average per capita spending of $348, Miami-Dade was 23rd among the state’s 67 counties.

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